Boeing Has Jobs for STEM Students

BoeingThe Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Boeing seeks Native business to partner with and Native students who could be potential Boeing employees.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Boeing seeks Native business to partner with and Native students who could be potential Boeing employees.

Jonathon GreyEyes has one word of advice for Native students interested in pursuing challenging, satisfying and well paid careers: STEM.

Okay, it’s really four words—science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Those are the areas of study students should focus on in order to move ahead in the 21st century global workplace, GreyEyes says.

GreyEyes, a Navajo Nation citizen, is a small business liaison officer for the massive, multinational Boeing Company, the world’s leading aerospace company and the largest manufacturer of commercial jetliners and military aircraft combined. Boeing also designs and manufactures rotorcraft, electronic and defense systems, missiles, satellites, launch vehicles and advanced information and communication systems. In short, the company is involved in everything that flies and/or uses technology, which is to say just about every business and employment opportunity in the global marketplace.

Grey Eyes says STEM is the smart career path for Native scholars. (courtesy Jonathon GreyEyes)
Grey Eyes says STEM is the smart career path for Native scholars. (courtesy Jonathon GreyEyes)

As a small business liaison officer, GreyEyes works to increase small and diverse business participation in support of the Boeing’s company goals and objectives. As a Native American, he tries to engage Indian country as much as possible by seeking out not only small Native-owned businesses for Boeing to partner with, but also Native students who are potential Boeing employees.

“My responsibilities primarily are to maximize opportunities for small businesses of any type to participate [in] Boeing’s activities,” GreyEyes told Indian Country Today Media Network. “Now, being Native American, I’ve tried to seek out Native American companies to participate in the different research, primarily research and development.”

Boeing and other large companies that receive government contracts actively recruit employees in the Native American community, GreyEyes said. “There’s lots of opportunity in just about any field in which somebody would want to work. For most jobs a college degree is going to be required. I think across the board—not just in the Native American community, but in any group that you want to look at. We’re seeing a decline in [students pursuing] the STEM fields…and so I would encourage students (and I’m encouraging my own children) to focus on these areas where they have an aptitude and an interest because there’s a lot of opportunity in [these] fields.”

One of the ways he seeks out both small Native-owned businesses and Native students is through the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, whose mission since 1977 has been to substantially increase American Indian and Alaska Native representation in the STEM fields—as students, professionals, mentors, and leaders, according to its website.

A young visitor to Boeing's Future of Flight tour.
A young visitor to Boeing’s Future of Flight tour.

The AISES national conference is one of the big annual events that Boeing supports every year. The company interviews and hires new employees there. “It’s very important to Boeing to give everybody an opportunity to participate with Boeing either as an employee or as a subcontractor—and, fortunately, that’s why people like me have a job maximizing opportunity!” he said. GreyEyes is a lifetime member of AISES as a Sequoyah Fellow. The program was named in memory of Sequoyah, who perfected the Cherokee alphabet and syllabary in 1821, resulting in the Cherokee Nation becoming literate in less than one year, according to the AISES website. “In this spirit, AISES Sequoyah Fellows are recognized for their commitment to AISES’s mission in STEM and to the American Indian community. They bring honor to AISES by engaging in leadership, mentorship, and other acts of service that support the students and professionals in the AISES family,” the site says.

What GreyEyes does at Boeing, essentially, is match jobs to businesses. He looks at the scope of work that the company intends to subcontract and then provides the program manager with as many opportunities and alternatives in terms of small businesses that can provide the services. “In the area of research and development it’s typically very specialized. I don’t get involved until it’s [a job] over $650,000—that’s a government threshold for requiring a subcontracting plan—so that would be a small contract and some of the large contracts would be in hundreds of millions of dollars.”

GreyEyes said he loves his job and the most exciting thing is the variety of projects the company pursues. “I always tell people I’m living in a Star Trek world. Some of the contracts that we’ve won just stagger the imagination. I’m always amazed at the types of things we research. We have thousands of investigative researchers researching anything you can imagine,” he said.

Boeing is the world's leading aerospace company and the largest manufacturer of commercial jetliners and military aircraft combined. (Boeing)
Boeing is the world’s leading aerospace company and the largest manufacturer of commercial jetliners and military aircraft combined. (Boeing)

One of Boeing’s recent innovations was the development of the Standoff Patient Triage Tool—an instrument Homeland Security dubbed as technology “to boldly go where no medical responder has gone before.” The wireless gizmo can detect a person’s vital signs—including whether a person is alive or dead—remotely from up to 40 feet away. The original intent was for battlefield use, but like other inventions developed for war the tool has numerous civilian applications including at fires, car crashes, mass casualties and other disasters.

Boeing has a number of programs that benefit its employees, including a program that pays employees to get graduate degrees, GreyEyes said.

There is a Native American affinity group to support the sizeable number of Native employees in the company, GreyEyes said. The group is organized regionally and nationally and is involved in all aspects including recruiting and mentoring Native students. “They might be showing them what life is like at a large corporation, helping them understand why education is so important and how it’s going to benefit them when they come to a large corporation like Boeing.

“In addition, through AISES we talk students through all stages of their education from middle school on through graduate school, and we try to get them tied in to particular people at Boeing who might be good contacts for when they’re ready to look for employment and then at events like the AISES national convention where we have several people doing active hiring and interviewing on site—members of the affinity groups are involved in all those stages, and it’s not part of their job it’s just something they do on top of it because it’s important,” GreyEyes said.

Once people are employed at Boeing, the affinity group brings everyone together to talk about what life is like there and whether any issues the affinity group should raise need to be addressed. “It’s just general support for each other,” GreyEyes said.

To view the range of job opportunities at Boeing, log onto its website at and click Careers on the menu bar.



Being Frank: Boeing, Let’s Talk

By Billy Frank, Jr., Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

OLYMPIA – It was the mid-1980s, and Roy dairy farmer Jim Wilcox was worried.

As an owner of Wilcox Family Farms, one of the largest dairy producers in western Washington at the time, he was concerned how his business would be affected by the activities of a new group called the Nisqually River Task Force. I was part of that task force of tribal, state, federal and local governments, businesses and others charged with developing a management plan for the Nisqually River watershed. The aim of the plan was balanced stewardship of the watershed’s economic, natural and cultural resources.

Fearing that possible environmental regulations in such a plan could put his family farm on the Nisqually River out of business, Wilcox quickly joined the task force to protect his interests. But before that, he teamed up with other large landowners in the watershed – including Weyerhaeuser – to try and shoot down any plan that might be developed.

But those fears melted one day when the task force was touring the watershed and our bus broke down. Waiting for help, Jim and I started talking. I told him that we wanted him to stay in business, but that we needed to protect salmon as well, and that if we worked together, we could come up with a solution.

He agreed to try. Today, Wilcox Family Farms is still in business and the Nisqually River watershed is one of the healthiest in the state. It’s a model of how a watershed can be managed for the benefit of everyone.

About that same time, a war was raging in the woods of Washington. Timber companies, environmental groups, tribes, state and federal agencies, and others were battling each other in court over the effects of timber harvests on fish and wildlife. I asked Stu Bledsoe, executive director of the Washington Forest Protection Association, a forest products industry trade group, to see if his members would be willing to join a cooperative effort to develop a solution for everyone involved.

He agreed to try. After many months of negotiations by all of the parties involved, the result was the Timber/Fish/Wildlife Agreement – now called the Forests and Fish Law – which put an end to the war in the woods with a cooperative science-based management approach that ensures a healthy timber industry while also protecting fish and wildlife.

We find ourselves in a similar situation today with the state’s extremely low fish consumption rate that is used to regulate pollution in our waters. The lower the rate, the higher the level of pollutants allowed.

Washington has one of the highest populations of seafood consumers, but uses one of the lowest fish consumption rates in the country to control water pollution. State government is quick to admit that the current rate of 6.5 grams of seafood per day – about one 8-ounce serving a month – does not protect most Washington citizens from toxins in our waters that can cause illness or death.

That fact is especially true for Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, as well as recreational fishermen and others who eat more seafood than most. For us tribes, fish and shellfish have always been basis of our cultures. Our treaty-reserved harvest rights depend on those resources being safe to eat.

Oregon recently increased its fish consumption rate to 175 grams per day, the most protective rate in the U.S. We think everyone in Washington deserves at least that level of protection.

Sadly, the effort to adopt a more accurate fish consumption rate has become one of the biggest public policy battles in the country, pitting human health against the economy. Some industry leaders such as Boeing are digging in their heels to delay or kill rule-making on a more accurate rate because they say it will increase their cost of doing business.

To find a solution, Gov. Jay Inslee has put together an informal advisory group of tribes, local governments, businesses, environmental organizations and others to help resolve the issue. That group met for the first time recently, and although Boeing was invited, the company chose not to participate.

That’s too bad, because I would have told them that we don’t want Boeing to leave the state or go out of business. We want them to keep making planes here in western Washington, but at the same time we have to protect the health of everyone who lives here by adopting a more realistic fish consumption rate. I also would have told them about Jim Wilcox and Stu Bledsoe and the many great things that can be accomplished when we sit down together to solve a shared problem.

Could how much fish you eat have a bearing on where Boeing will build its 777X?

By Jerry Cornfield, The Herald

OLYMPIA — Three months after a dispute over how much fish Washington state residents eat nearly derailed the state budget, a panel of lawmakers revisited the controversial subject Monday in a more peaceful fashion.

But that doesn’t mean the fighting is over.

Members of the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee got a progress report on revising the state’s water quality standards, a process that ties the amount of fish each resident eats with the levels of contaminants allowed in water discharged from industrial facilities.

This matter ignited a political tiff in the second special session in June when Senate Republicans insisted a comprehensive study of individual fish-eating habits be done before serious work began on rewriting the rules.

They were acting at the behest of the Boeing Co., which is concerned an increase in the consumption rate could lead to stricter discharge rules. That could require the company to spend millions of dollars in renovations at its facilities, and some Republicans contend it will convince Boeing to undertake its 777X program in another state.

Senate Republicans, who ultimately conceded on the study, organized Monday’s hearing partly to send a message to the Department of Ecology, which is writing the rules.

“We want to let them know we’re paying attention,” said Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, who led Monday’s 90-minute work session. “I think the people of South Carolina are paying attention to this rule, too.”

He said he may push again for a comprehensive study in the 2014 legislative session.

“My feeling is we’re going to work with the department because we have to,” he said, adding that he wants another update in November. “We’ll take a look and see what’s happened.

Environmental groups are watching closely, too, though none was allowed to speak to the committee during Monday’s work sesssion.

Two months ago, a coalition filed a notice of its intent to sue the federal Environmental Protection Agency to force the state to enact more stringent standards.

Kelly Sussewind, water quality program manager for the state Department of Ecology, said the threat of a lawsuit “keeps the pressure on us” to stick to the timeline for making a decision.

Under the timeline, the department would propose changes early next year, hold hearings and adopt changes at the end of the year.

The standards are to ensure rivers and major bodies of water are clean enough to support fish that are safe for humans to eat, Sussewind explained. Whatever is adopted needs to be approved by the federal government.

Since 1992, the state has assumed the average amount of fish eaten each day is 6.5 grams, which works out to about a quarter of an ounce per day or 5.2 pounds per year

Regulators are considering an increase to at least 17.5 grams a day, or about 14 pounds a year, to be in line with current federal guidelines.

Sussewind told lawmakers the state is not required to do anything, but the federal government might not approve the new rules without a higher rate.

A Seattle attorney who did testify Monday said the state is going to have to do a good job explaining itself.

“There is a lot of emotion around this issue,” said attorney James Tupper, who said he represents firms which would be affected by the changes. “I think Ecology and the state have some really difficult policy choices to make. “The question is how will they come down on them?”

Boeing’s opposition to fish study a sticking point in budget

Jerry Cornfield, The Herald

OLYMPIA — A dispute on how much seafood Washington residents devour entangled lawmakers Tuesday as they worked to reach agreement on a budget and avert a partial shutdown of state government next week.

The House and Senate collided on whether a study is needed before any work is done to revise state rules that tie the amount of fish each resident eats with the levels of contaminants allowed in water discharged from industrial facilities.

Boeing Co. opposes efforts to increase the fish consumption figure because it would lead to stricter water quality standards. Compliance could require the company to spend millions of dollars in renovations at the facilities.

The budget passed by the Senate in the first special session funds a comprehensive study to figure out how much fin fish and shell fish each resident will consume over their lifetime. The Senate did not include the study in the budget it approved during the regular session.

Senators want the study to determine where fish consumption is highest and lowest in the state, what species are getting eaten and even “the preparation and cooking methods” for the fish used by residents.

The budget does not say when the study is due or how much it will cost, though a person familiar with it estimated the price would be around $1 million.

House Democrats and Gov. Jay Inslee strongly oppose the Senate approach. Representatives reached Tuesday said they viewed the study as an attempt to indefinitely delay the process of changing the fish consumption standard.

Nonetheless, House and Senate members were working Tuesday on compromise language to clear away one of the last impediments to securing a deal on a new two-year spending plan for the state.

Fish consumption is not a new issue around Olympia.

Under former Gov. Chris Gregoire, the state Department of Ecology was in the midst of boosting the fish consumption figures and toughening water quality rules when Gregoire interceded to derail the effort. Her ecology director at the time, Ted Sturdevant, is now a key adviser to Inslee.

Gregoire acted amid heavy lobbying from Boeing and other large firms on the potential economic effect to their businesses, according to a story by InvestigateWest reporter Robert McClure that ran in The Herald.

This year Inslee sought to keep the matter out of the hands of lawmakers.

“We’re working on the issue,” he said in a March interview following a speech to members of the Aerospace Futures Alliance.

“It’s a really important issue both for health issues and aerospace so we’re working on a solution to solve both problems,” he said. “As far as timing, I can’t give you an answer on that.”

Business interests trump health concerns in fish consumption fight

Fish Consumption Rates

“Our tribal leadership’s main responsibility is simply to protect our people,” said Marc Gauthier, a representative of the Upper Columbia United Tribes, before leaving the meeting. “It comes down to that basic human desire to protect your family.”

By Robert McClure
March 30, 2013

The Washington State Department of Ecology has known since the 1990s that its water-pollution limits have meant some Washingtonians regularly consume dangerous amounts of toxic chemicals in fish from local waterways.

At least twice, Ecology has been told by its overseers at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to fix the problem and better protect people’s health. Ecology was close to finally doing that last year — until Boeing and other business interests launched an intense lobbying campaign aimed not just at Ecology but also at the Washington Legislature and then-Gov. Christine Gregoire. That is the picture that emerges from recent interviews as well as government documents obtained by InvestigateWest under the Washington Public Records Law.

The problem lies in Ecology’s estimate of how much fish people eat. The lower the amount, the more water pollution Ecology can legally allow. So by assuming that people eat the equivalent of just one fish meal per month, Ecology is able to set less stringent pollution limits.

Meanwhile, citing the health benefits of fish, the state Department of Health advises people to eat fish twice a week, eight times as often as the official estimate of actual consumption. The state knows that some members of Indian tribes, immigrants and other fishermen consume locally caught seafood even more often than that and are therefore at greater risk of cancer, neurological damage and other maladies.

The Boeing Co. looms large in this story. In June 2012, Boeing said if Ecology went ahead with plans to make fish safer to eat, it would “cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars and severely hamper its ability to increase production in Renton and make future expansion elsewhere in the state cost prohibitive,” according to a Gregoire aide’s reconstruction of a conversation with a Boeing executive that month.

In July 2012, Ecology announced it would not go forward with a new rule to adjust the fish-eating estimate as planned. Instead the agency launched a “stakeholder process” that would delay any new rules for at least two years. Last week that process plodded on in Spokane, where state and local government officials and others spent more than three hours discussing the many contaminants that for years have prompted official state warnings against eating Washington fish too regularly.

“All we’ve seen is delay,” said Bart Mihailovich of the Spokane Riverkeeper environmental group, one of several that have refused to participate in the new series of meetings. “Why are we going back and doing what was already done?”

At the meeting in Spokane Thursday, a representative of Indian tribes called Ecology’s conduct “a betrayal” and explained that the tribes are boycotting the current process because it is unnecessary.

“Our tribal leadership’s main responsibility is simply to protect our people,” said Marc Gauthier, a representative of the Upper Columbia United Tribes, before leaving the meeting. “It comes down to that basic human desire to protect your family.”

Ecology had at least one other false start in fixing the rules, back in the mid-1990s, an effort that petered out even before a rule change was proposed, said Melissa Gildersleeve, the Ecology manager overseeing the current stakeholder process. That followed a 1994 study by the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission that documented how the national estimate of one fish meal per month was greatly and regularly exceeded by some members of Indian tribes.

While who eats how much contaminated fish is a slippery and much-debated corner of science, few of the parties involved in the current dispute in Washington contend that the current fish-consumption rate accurately reflects the true amount eaten, especially by some groups such as members of Indian tribes, subsistence fishermen and immigrants. The figure came from a 1973-74 federal study that asked consumers to fill our “food diaries” for three days, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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