The Chairman's Corner

Notes from Millard Battles

May 2010


Our May Meeting With Boeing's Joyce Walters - on the Bluebills and Science & Math Education

This Chairman’s report is credited to our Public Relations Chair, Nancy Wright, who prepared the minutes for our May leadership meeting.

The Leadership Council welcomed Joyce Walters from Boeing Education and Work Force Initiatives at its May meeting.  She told us about Boeing’s current plans to stimulate students in careers in science.  It may provide a new opportunity for our organization to grow.

Walters reported that Boeing is greatly concerned about the state of science and math education in this country and is launching a newly-expanded initiative to help ensure all children have a quality education and ultimately bring more talent into the workforce.

She began by saying 3.7 million kindergarteners were enrolled this year in the system, 1.2 million will drop out before graduation from high school and colleges will be graduating only just 67, 000 engineers.  The shortage of skilled engineers and other skilled applicants continues to grow alarmingly.  It’s worse than 5 years ago. 

“We are going to figure this out,” she said.  Boeing has visibility and resources  and is leading the way in collaboration with other firms and trade organizations.  Rick Stephens, Senior Vice President, HR and Administration, will be serving in a leadership role.  There are 10,000 firms participating and 48 states have formally recognized the need for national education standards for science and math.  (The states that have opted out of the movement are Alaska and Texas.)

Part of the workforce initiative will be to encourage Boeing technical employees to consider a second career as they prepare for retirement.   These jobs would be in primary and secondary classrooms.  In a pilot program, retired technical employees would be certified to teach full or part time or serve as classroom volunteers.   

Part of the training will be to introduce them to the challenges that exist in schoolrooms today.  Teachers are exhausted trying to deal with the demands of their jobs and teach where so many languages are spoken and the distractions are many.  Of course there are other issues to be overcome -- like how to get retirees to commit to schedules.

Walters wants to develop a better relationship with Boeing retiree groups and asked for our support.  “When we talk about retirees, I always talk about Bluebills.  You got on board early, you self-organized, and you are well known for your involvement in education”, Walters said.

A lively discussion followed around the Leadership Council table.  The highlights:

  • Today’s young people have no clue how to relate what they are learning to its relevance in the workplace.
  • The focus will be on middle school where the teachers are least prepared.  Today, when volunteers go into the classroom to introduce engineering concepts and stimulate thinking about careers in engineering, teachers are frequently unable to answer the follow-on questions that students might ask. 
  • A majority of these middle school teachers have been trained in the arts, not the sciences, and good science teachers often end up in industry, making larger salaries.
  • Ken Porter, a long-time supporter of World in Motion, a hands-on, after-school science program, observed that after-school programs these days just won’t work.  Kids are hungry, busy, they have to catch the bus, go to after-school jobs or do homework, and there’s always competition from sports activities.

As many of you know, the Bluebills Leadership Council has made numerous attempts to get information about Bluebill volunteer activities included in the Boeing retiree exit packages.  The packages are delivered electronically in today’s workplace environment, with no “human” interaction involved.  These packages lack references to the fulfillment that volunteering can bring when retirees enter that next most important chapter of their lives.

The recent Boeing Frontiers article on volunteerism didn’t even mention Bluebills or other retiree volunteer options.

But perhaps the new workplace initiative focus will open up the avenues of communication that we are currently lacking.  Stay tuned!

Millard Battles

Chair, Central Leadership Council

Feb '10 Chairman's Corner


Aug '09 Chairman's Corner

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 date of this page version: 1 June 2010