Spirit AeroSystems CEO urges support for engineering education

TOPEKA¬† — Spirit AeroSystems president and CEO Jeff Turner provided written testimony this morning supporting the University Engineering Initiative Act, which aims to increase the number of engineering graduates in Kansas to 1,365 per year by 2021.

“During these times, it is more important than ever to do everything in our power to protect the industries and jobs that help sustain our people and our communities,” Turner wrote.

He said a skilled engineering workforce “will positively impact the economy of Kansas.”

Spirit depends on engineers, Turner said, saying that they “play a critical role in our ability to design and build exacting products in one of the most rigidly controlled industries in the world.”

The Senate substitute for House Bill 2149 directs the Kansas Board of Regents, in concert with Wichita State University, the University of Kansas and Kansas State University, to develop a plan to grow engineers locally.

The act would create four new funds to boost engineering education, paid for with lottery funds.

Ron Gaches, executive director of the Kansas Society of Professional Engineers, also testified before the House Appropriations Committee this morning.

“We simply cannot meet the future workforce demands of Kansas employers and potential employers if we don’t start investing now in the capacity of our engineering colleges,” Gaches said in written testimony.

Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, said engineering “is a career where you can make a good living.”

Gaches told legislators that 14 of the top 15-earning undergraduate degrees are in engineering.

“The lowest paying of those entry-level positions last year started at $54,000, and the top-paying earned more than $83,000,” Gaches said in written testimony. “An increasing supply of young engineers is essential to the future growth of the Kansas economy.”

Rep. Joe McLeland, R-Wichita, expressed some concern about the number of foreign students in engineering programs because they can’t stay in Kansas to work.