Summit raises aerospace awareness

Monday, June 23rd 2008, 4:57 pm
By: News 9

By Audrey Esther, INsite Team 

In addition to energy, agriculture and healthcare the aerospace industry makes up a large part of Oklahoma's economy. About one in 10 Oklahoman's work in the aerospace industry and in Oklahoma alone aeronautics is a multi-billion dollar a year business.

The annual Oklahoma Aerospace Summit and Expo attempts to advance Oklahoma's growing role in this fast growing industry. The three-day event will bring together industry leaders, government officials and educators from approximately 30 countries.

"Clearly we're used to agricultural and energy industries, but part of the purpose of this summit is to make this industry more visible to just the ordinary citizens of Oklahoma," Lt. Governor Jari Askins said, who is a keynote speaker at this year's summit.

The Aerospace Education and Training day is a new event this year and will be held on Wednesday. The goal of this one-day event is to teach educators how to generate interest about aeronautics among Oklahoma students, said director of Boeing operations in Oklahoma Ben Robinson.

Training and educating more Oklahoman's in aeronautics is the industry's biggest challenge, but necessary for the state to become a worldwide leader, he said.

"Where do we get the people, how do we train them, how do we motivate them to come into the aerospace business, and how do we grow and develop them once we have them in the aerospace business?" Robinson said.

Last fall a report by the governor's council on workforce development found that the number of state aerospace workers nearing retirement is rapidly out pacing young Oklahoman's entering the workforce.

"Raising the awareness of this summit is an opportunity to try to excite young people about the opportunities for their future in Oklahoma," Askins said.

This year more than 1,000 industry experts will share their insights at the Cox Convention center.

"This certainly isn't just about Oklahoma," Robinson said. "It's about the national industry,"

Astronaut, pioneer in space exploration and Oklahoma native retired General Thomas P. Stafford attended Monday's events and presented the General Thomas P. Stafford Aerospace Award.