West Star Aviation Perryville Open House Celebration
West Star Aviation had an open house at its Perryville, MO facility on September 19. Bob Graf and I were in attendance. The last time I was in that facility was in early 2013 when I interviewed Sabreliners' Tracy Ogle for the cover of our March issue. Not that the facility was bad then, but West Star has done a great job giving the place a face lift! It is good to see that it already has customers coming in for work.
During the open house, West Star had several guest speakers. Kyle French, the general manager at West Star welcomed us. Then CEO Jim Rankin talked about West Star and its growth opportunities in Perryville. Next, Missouri State Representative Rick Francis talked about the importance of high-paying skilled jobs to the State and Local communities. Finally, West Star president and COO Rodger Renaud spoke. It was interesting to learn that Renaud worked for Sabreliner in the same facility when he was younger. It was nice to see that he had come full-circle in his career and was back in Perryville as one of West Star's executive team!
Something that Representative Francis mentioned during his speech caught my attention. He said that many companies in his state were hurting to find technically-skilled workers. He said that a four-year college degree isn't the only option for high school graduates — there are many job opportunities at companies like West Star. Unfortunately, many companies are finding it difficult to find employees to meet their needs.
I took some time to speak with Representative Francis towards the end of the open house. I shared my thoughts on the subject:
1. High school guidance counselors are judged on how many kids they get into colleges and universities. They spend most of their time encouraging kids to attend college. I can't think of an occasion where a counselor would tell their principal, "I know college enrollment is down, but the good news is that enrollment in trade schools has doubled!"
2. Aviation is hurt by this overall shortage in skilled labor. It's a fact — many graduates of Part 147 schools never work on aircraft. They are recruited straight out of school by non-aviation companies to work in industries like amusement parks, railroads and others. After all, where else can you recruit employees who are technically trained in a wide variety of skills including electrical, sheet metal, hydraulics, welding, composites and more? Nowhere!
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