The Raytheon Company and the Business Council of Alabama in Huntsville this week hosted north Alabama manufacturers and elected officials for a discussion of the critical roles that manufacturing and education have in creating jobs.
A Monday reception sponsored by Raytheon and the BCA hosted Raytheon suppliers, BCA members, and elected officials to salute north Alabama manufacturers. It was a prelude to Tuesday’s informative meetings in the Raytheon Company’s Weapon Integration Center in Huntsville’s Research Park and a tour of its missile production facility.
BCA Chairman Fred McCallum, president of AT&T Alabama, introduced Raytheon Weapon Integration Center Director Randy Stevenson as co-sponsor of the two-day event that was heavy on business involvement in education. “We’re creating positive changes in our education system,” McCallum said.
Stevenson has been in Huntsville since 2012 overseeing construction and operation of Raytheon’s high-technology missile production facility at nearby Redstone Arsenal.
In keeping with the theme of the meeting, Stevenson could have been speaking for all manufacturers when he praised suppliers who keep Raytheon production lines rolling.
“Raytheon is only as good as those who support us,” Stevenson said. “Our supply chain support is very important.”
Raytheon is a significant supporter of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education that provides vital exposure to what it takes to prepare for high technology and advanced manufacturing careers, Stevenson said.
Dr. Chad Moutray, chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers, said since the nation will need one million manufacturing workers by 2020, the key to attaining them is education and early exposure to skilled technical positions.
Canary presented Raytheon’s Stevenson a leadership gold medal for “Excellence in Manufacturing.”
The meeting included reports on politics, the economy, business education efforts, and a tour of Raytheon’s production facility. A BCA Manufacturing Advocacy Council meeting rounded out the Raytheon session.
BCA President and CEO William J. Canary said the two-day event linked the concept of education and the importance of economic development as the reason behind creation of the Business and Education Alliance of Alabama. “This process that we’ve developed for Pre-k through 14 will dramatically change our state,” Canary said.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, reviewed the last four legislative sessions that were under the control of a pro-business supermajority of House and Senate members elected in 2010 who changed the environment with its business-friendly legislation.
“Everything that has been accomplished has been because of a pro-business Legislature,” said Marsh. He predicted at least four more years of a pro-business Legislature following the November general election.
Marsh, a former manufacturing business owner, expanded on the education theme of the conference and the importance of early education and student exposure to technically skilled jobs in manufacturing. “I’m convinced we will not move forward if we don’t solve the education problem,” Marsh said.
Dr. Joe Morton, Chairman and President of the Business and Education Alliance of Alabama, said one target of the BEA is a meaningful and dramatic increase in the Alabama high school graduation rate.
“Our goal is to bring business and education together … and put together a positive game plan,” he said. “Alabama is at a unique situation where business and education are supported by the private sector.”
The BCA’s Manufacturing Advocacy Council meeting conducted by MAC co-chairman Ronnie Boles, president of General & Automotive Machine Shop, included Raytheon, BCA members, NAM’s Moutray, Morton and BEA finance chairman Jay Love.
The roundtable discussion covered issues important to manufacturing and the need for early technical education opportunities for students who will become potential employees.