Out-of-state opportunities presented for laid-off Spirit employees

Published: Jan. 23, 2020 at 6:35 PM CST
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With layoffs beginning at Spirit AeroSystems, one of the chief concerns from Wichita's machinists union is that some of the company's more experience workers could leave the area.

Even when Spirit gets back to work on the halted 737 MAX, experienced workers who received a lay off notice could be gainfully employed outside the area by then and not interested in returning to Wichita if an opportunity to resume their old jobs came up.

Looking ahead, several aerospace companies have job fairs in Wichita. Several jobs are local, but many represented at these fairs are out-of-state positions.

Thursday and Friday, GKN -- a company out of St. Louis -- is in Wichita to recruit employees being laid off from Spirit. A recruiter with GKN Thursday evening, says he's already offered several jobs to Spirit employees. The company hosted the first of two job fairs in town Thursday. The second is set for 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday at the Kansas Aviation Museum.

This puts Spirit in a tough position because once 737 MAX production resumes, the company will need employees back who might not be available.

Jesse Clawson is among the high-skilled workers laid off from Spirit and willing to relocate.

"I would move out of state for a contracting job, or any company that's looking to hire," Clawson says.

GKN Senior Engineering Manager Erik Mullen says the company wanted to reach out to impacted Spirit employees as soon as possible "to try to minimize that impact as much as (they) could."

Over the next few days, Bombardier in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Expo Experts in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Collins Aerospace in West Palm Beach, Fla. are among companies with job fairs scheduled in Wichita over the next few weeks.

"We feel there is talent here that we can help by offering positions, and talent that can help us fill those positions," Mullen says.

Experts say the outside interest puts Spirit and Wichita in a vulnerable position.

"Once the 737 is recertified, Spirit will be really interested in recalling the workers that have been laid off," says Keith Lawing with the Wichita Workforce Center. "They probably know they are not going to get everybody back, but they don't want to lose that talent."

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