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Cessna to add 1,500 jobs in 2008

Cessna to add 1,500 jobs in 2008

Cessna Aircraft plans to add 1,500 jobs next year, the majority of them in Wichita, company officials said this week.

Cessna plans to increase Wichita employment by about 1,200 in 2008, said senior vice president for human resources Jim Walters.

"It´s primarily, if not solely, driven by growth," Walters said.

Cessna expects to deliver 380 business jets, including 44 Citation Mustangs from its Independence plant, in 2007, company officials have said. In 2008, it plans to deliver 470 jets, including about 100 Mustangs. "The orders are coming," said JSA Research analyst Paul Nisbet. "The pressure is there to get as many of these planes out the door as you can." Of the new jobs, about 60 percent will be direct labor -- jobs such as sheet metal assemblers and avionics technicians, Walters said. The remainder will be engineering and other professional positions, and salaried support jobs. Cessna´s figures do not include hiring to replace normal turnover, which has an annual rate of 6 to 7 percent. About 14,400 people work for Cessna, including 11,000 in Wichita. Cessna´s Independence facility employs about 1,100. It will add 150 to 200 jobs next year as production of the Mustang increases. Cessna´s order backlog hit a record $ 11.9 billion at the end of September, up $ 1.5 billion from the previous three months. Its business jets are sold out for the next three years. In the first nine months of the year, Cessna sold 609 jets -- more than twice its pace of deliveries. The growth is taxing its facilities in Wichita.

"We´re bursting at the seams," Walters said. "That´s a challenge right now."

Cessna is adding portable engineering offices on site, and next year it will add two paint booths. The company also is utilizing plants in Columbus, Ga., and Chihuahua, Mexico, to help it deal with capacity issues, Walters said. The projected increase in jobs during 2008 will be about the same number Cessna added this year, Walters said. The challenge is finding skilled employees in a tight job market. "We´re able to meet our needs, but it´s getting tougher and tougher," Walters said. That´s why the new technical training center at Col. James Jabara Airport, scheduled to open in late 2009 or early 2010, is key.

"We´re making some progress there, but we still have some ways to go," Walters said.

Three factors are driving the need for skilled employees in Wichita -- changes in technology, retiring baby boomers and a high demand for aircraft, said Wichita Area Technical College president Peter Gustaf.

"We don´t have the numbers locally that can replace the growth, but we have the numbers regionally," Gustaf said. "We have to increase our reach and our ability to draw people in from a distance."

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