Boeing On The Hunt For Engineers And Talent, From Arlington To Brazil
ARLINGTON, Virginia—Boeing’s hunt for new engineering talent is taking it from suburban Washington to Brazil as it seeks to attract and retain a new generation of workers after the COVID-19 pandemic and production missteps.
Boeing is ramping up efforts to hire new engineers and other technology graduates after an exodus of workers in recent years, stemming from early retirement of some baby boomers and other societal changes such as the Great Resignation. As part of the company’s recently announced headquarters relocation to DC suburb Arlington, Virginia, Boeing is investing in a Northern Virginia effort to create a regional talent hub.
On June 13 at its new corporate headquarters, Boeing leaders announced a new partnership with the state of Virginia and its Virginia Tech university to create the Boeing Center for Veteran Transition and Military Families as part of the Innovation Campus being established nearby. Boeing CEO and President David Calhoun said it is one of many efforts globally to source fresh talent.
“We’re going to hunt everywhere in the world we can for the best engineering talent we can find,” Calhoun told Aviation Week. “We happen to think this location, and its accompanying Innovation Campus, is going to represent one of those opportunities to get the best of the best.”
Asked about hiring workers in Brazil too and whether Boeing has enough engineers or is getting them, Calhoun acknowledged that recent conditions have been tough, but he sees it getting better. “I can never answer that yes,” he said about having enough, “because the hunt for the best engineering talent in the world is going to stay a hunt for as far as the eye can see. It’s not just us, it’s everybody in the industry.”
“I do think the industry may have to compete a little less than it did for the last couple of years just because of all the corrections that occurred,” Calhoun added. “I’m optimistic.”
At the start of 2022, Lynne Hopper, Boeing VP and general manager of engineering strategy and operations, said the company hired 4,800 engineers in 2021, and in 2022 hopes to hire more than 7,000.
Boeing is believed to be ramping up efforts to source talent in Brazil, home to Embraer. At the start of the pandemic, Boeing walked away from a deal to buy most of Embraer’s commercial division, a deal that was supposed to provide a pipeline of younger aircraft designers, among other benefits.
“It’s absolutely 100% true,” Bank of America analyst Ron Epstein told Aviation Week in June. “Boeing has been recruiting engineers in Sao Jose dos Campos, Embraer’s home, looking for talent, but Embraer is too.”
Epstein’s team has reported how Boeing is bringing in younger, fresher engineering talent but has lost veterans. “One of the things we’ve noticed is they’ve lost engineers at the higher levels,” Epstein told Aviation Week. “Boeing has been recruiting younger engineers and bringing in less experienced folks, but the engineers who have worked on multiple programs, they’re hard to find. And Brazil’s a logical place to go because Embraer has developed so many airplanes over the last 20 years. You do have a whole cadre of engineers who have a lot of experience on multiple programs.”
Epstein suggested there might be related announcements during the Farnborough International Airshow in July, although he also advised against reading too much into it. “My sense is it’s going to be a harder task for Boeing to do there than maybe they think,” he said. “In the region, Embraer’s a national champion. I like to tell people that in Brazil, Embraer’s a religion. It’s going to be tough recruiting those folks.”
Back in Northern Virginia, Boeing has pledged a $50 million investment to become the first foundational partner of the Innovation Campus. The veterans center will use a portion of that investment, although Boeing executives and Virginia officials declined to give specifics.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) told an audience at the headquarters that Boeing had told him about its decisions to beef up its Arlington and Alexandria presence in December 2021. Calhoun said the announcements were a culmination of an “incredibly deliberate” process that ran a “long” period.
“For us it’s incubating new talent as well as new technology, and its location and its access to the Innovation Campus matters a lot,” Calhoun said. “We’re going to take advantage of this location and try to attract as many young people as we possibly can to this trade and to our company.”