BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — By most accounts, the representatives of the West Virginia Aerospace Alliance considers their industry a thriving one with room to grow in North Central West Virginia. There is, however, one major concern that those representatives expressed to Governor Jim Justice at an economic conference Monday afternoon.
“We have an aging work force,” Bombardier General Manager Stephen McCoy said. “We need to feed the work force with younger people.”
McCoy said the average turnover rate of employees in West Virginia’s $1.05 billion dollar aerospace industry is less than half that of the national average, but that has created a concern over how to replace employees who are fast approaching the end of their careers.
“How we’re going to, number one, feed this industry out here,” McCoy said. “There’s probably about 2500 to 3000 jobs here. Job opportunities, if we look at the whole, another 1000 jobs potentially. But we have to understand where we’re going to get those people from to feed those jobs.”
That was one of several conversations that brought Justice and Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher to Bridgeport.
“They are standing at the threshold saying, ‘There’s job opportunity everywhere,’ Justice said. “And it’s the very thing that West Virginia needs desperately.”
One of the ‘feeder’ systems McCoy referred to is the Robert C. Byrd National Aerospace Education Center, which has been supplying fresh recruits to companies like Bombardier and Lockheed Martin. A number of representatives in the room expressed concern that untapped potential at the school was being wasted due to a diminishing budget that doesn’t allow trainees to work on modern equipment during their introduction to the aerospace industry.
“We need to reward these people,” Justice said. “Someway, somehow, that’s my job. I’ve got to convince the people of what’s going on here, and I can get that done.”
McCoy believed the conference was,…