Hawker Beechcraft chairman Bill Boisture says he expects to see rapid "payback" from a new three-year, $10 million employee education and training programme funded by the state of Kansas.
"I think we'll start to see some payback as soon as 90 days," says Boisture. "We'll start with primary skills and make sure [employees] are as competent as they can be". The initial results, he says, should include a reduction in scrap and rework and a "significant improvement" in first-pass yield to "get it right the first time". In the longer term, he says the programme will "broaden workforce skills".
The money is part of a broader $45 million incentive package assembled by the state, Wichita and Sedgwick County in December in return for the airframer retaining its production line in Wichita for 10 years and keeping 4,000 workers employed. Hawker had been considering a move to several states, including Louisiana.
Boisture says $5 million will be dedicated to education and $5 million to training, some of which will take place at the nearby National Center for Aviation Training, a Wichita-based technical college dedicated to the hands-on training in general aviation manufacturing, aircraft and engines.
"The agreement benefits and focuses resources on our factory workers, the craftsmen and craftswomen in our factories as well as people who want to pursue college level work," he says.
The remaining $35 million will be used for new and existing product development and improvement projects over a five-year period, says Boisture.
Training will include sheet metal, composites, avionics, interior completions and troubleshooting. "This is foundational to having a more flexible and efficient workforce," says Boisture. "I think it improves [employee] pride and participation in building aircraft. We have a very positive vision of what this will do for the workforce."
Boisture adds that the $5 million is a "very sound amount of money for training a workforce of this size".
The agreement to stay in Kansas may also salve soured relations with the machinists union, which had opposed a move out of the state.
"Because we have had some uncertainty in where we were going to locate parts of our company, making the decision to accept the offer from the state is a very positive thing," says Boisture. "It brings some stability and some assurance to the workforce. When you combine that with the investment in [employee] skills and training, it's hard to read this as anything but real positive for Hawker Beechcraft's workforce."