Volume 03, Issue 2
Yours for the taking
Boeing people have many resources to boost their skills and take advantage of work opportunities
BY MAUREEN JENKINS
Boeing faces tough competition these days-and not just when it comes to bidding on high-profile contracts or airplane orders. These days, the company's in a battle for those key employees who will keep it in the forefront of technical leadership and excellence. The fight's on because of rapid growth in emerging fields and, in some cases, because retirements are outpacing new hires. And in this post-Sept. 11 world, security clearance restrictions are making it even harder to staff critical defense-related positions and programs.
But for Boeing people who play their cards right, these needs can translate into a world of opportunity. That is, if they discover which competencies Boeing most needs and then take advantage of the company's vast supply of careerenhancement resources. Just as Boeing is transforming itself into a more agile global enterprise, company employment experts said, so should its nearly 157,000 employees be doing the same.
It's all about reinvention-and that's not just for pop stars like Madonna. Because of the company's breadth, "you don't have to leave Boeing but can transfer within for new opportunities," said Donna Wildrick, Global Staffing senior manager for Shared Services.
Last year alone, nearly 29,000 Boeing employees applied for 21,000 jobs internally through the Boeing Enterprise Staffing System, a tool on the Boeing Web that creates job requisitions, posts available positions and handles preemployment processing. That's nearly one-fifth of the company's worldwide workforce. And of these, each employee applied for an average of 16 jobs.
Many employees have done their homework, discovering which skills-such as space exploration systems and systems engineering-Boeing most needs in the next several years.
Partly because of program contract wins, "we are short," said Dale Gunnoe, Systems Engineering functional skills manager for Phantom Works' and Integrated Defense Systems' Puget Sound-area operations.
He said hiring in systems engineering has expanded between 12 and 14 percent over the past year. "While it is science, there is an art to it," Gunnoe said of the discipline that's been around for the past 50 or 60 years-and has become increasingly valuable to Boeing programs.
Gunnoe said there's "ample evidence" showing that the potential for cost overruns of a program decrease with higher expenditures in systems engineering. "Programs have become increasingly complex, and that is the fertile ground for systems engineering. Plus, the customers are mandating it," he said.
Global Staffing Director Rich Hartnett added: "If you look at the company strategy, it says we're moving away from being parts manufacturers and moving toward the more knowledge-based skills." That means an emphasis on analysis, systems integration, program and project management-and the increasingly important ability to obtain security clearances (see box on Page 17) for programs involving U.S. homeland security and national defense.
"There are also some very specific jobs, particularly in the intelligence world, where there just aren't that many people" who can do the work, Hartnett said.
Take project management, for example. Hartnett said that over the past few years this skill set has become increasingly valuable. So much so that Boeing offered certificates through its LEAD (Learning, Education, Assessments & Development) program. "Some of the integration programs like Future Combat Systems, Space & Intelligence Systems and even 7E7 have an increasing demand for program and project management skills," Hartnett said.
.What places a job on the "critical" list?
It can be a position in "a relatively specific field that there aren't a lot of people in," Hartnett said, or one with "lots of demand but a small population" of those qualified to fill it.
"We're not hiring at the rate we need to be hiring at, but we are hiring," said Wildrick, who's constantly seeking to staff about 6,000 hard-to-fill company jobs and keep Boeing's name out in front of job seekers.
In the United States, the National Science Board reported in May that in science and engineering occupations, foreign-born non-U.S. citizens hold 38 percent of doctoral degrees, 28 percent of master's degrees, and 19 percent of bachelor's degrees.
"Now you start asking yourself about the Department of Defense," said Shared Services President Rick Stephens, who's worked with more than 300 organizations on future workforce development issues and is passionate about government, industry and media teaming to address them. "How many positions do they have that they cannot fill because they don't have U.S. citizens to fill them? So what's going on in the pipeline?
"I contend there is not a labor shortage," Stephens said, "but a skill shortage."
So what can current Boeing employees do to bridge the gap between the skills they have and those the company most needs?
Said Hartnett: "I think people are starting to understand the concept of lifetime employability rather than lifetime employment. We encourage people to pay attention to the environment. It's a good idea to stay current with what's out there and take personal responsibility for our own employability."
Boeing resources such as the groundbreaking Learning Together Program offer ways for employees to take charge of their own futures. Since Boeing inaugurated this company-paid college tuition program in 1998, Boeing people have earned more than 12,000 degrees.
"Boeing's commitment to lifelong learning is tremendous. It's second to none," said Laurette Koellner, executive vice president, Internal Services. "Our Learning Together Program, for example, provides tuition and money for books to employees who take classes at any regionally or nationally accredited institution-even when what the employee chooses to study doesn't relate directly to their job. That's how much Boeing values learning."
Shared Services' Career Transition Centers and Global Staffing's Career Management Services offer resources that help employees manage their careers. They also assist those affected by impending layoffs and downsizing build upon their current skills and translate those into new opportunities within the company. It's happened for a Philadelphia engineer on the cancelled Comanche program, said CTC's Bud Fishback. The employee took part in two CTC workshops, scheduled a session with a career counselor, and accepted a new position in Renton, Wash.
Programs like the Ed Wells Initiative, a partnership between Boeing and the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace-designed to improve the company's technical excellence by providing skill training, career development and improving employee skill utilization-also help. Offerings range from narrowly focused technical courses, like the one recently offered on engine icing, to one on "systems thinking," which looks "at the flow of a group of systems and how these systems might interact with each other," said Strategic Skills Development Program Manager Kathi Riley.
Training employees how to help themselves is key.
In many areas within Boeing, Riley said, "We're such a culture of 'go do.' And if we're told, 'go do,' we will." But "how do you find the wherewithal to go forward, get the information? Who do you work with-your manager, skill team captain? I'm starting to see people starting to work that through.
"Once they start to know where they fit in, they can 'go do.'"
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