Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Boeing effectively permanently closed its Moscow Design Center, previously the company’s major overseas engineering facility that at one time housed some 1,500 engineers.
“Right now, it’s gone,” said Lynn Hopper, Boeing vice president of engineering strategy and operations.
Since the summer, Boeing has been facilitating travel for about 100 Russian engineers and their families who wanted to emigrate – a process now complete – and arranging jobs for them at its facilities in other countries Is.
Meanwhile, the company took extraordinary steps to keep and protect its team in Ukraine and their families.
When the Russians invaded, “we wanted to make sure that every one of those employees were safe, that they had access to cash, heat, food, water,” Hooper said.
Internal Boeing documents obtained by The Seattle Times provide for the first time a detailed picture of the company’s commercial airplane engineering work outside the US and how it has changed because of the war in Ukraine.
“When we lost all the engineering talent in Russia, we had to take that work back and put it on other global sites and domestically,” Hooper said. “So now we are investing in setting up engineering centers in Poland and Brazil, which we didn’t have before.”
No location expanded more this year than India, making it now Boeing’s largest overseas hub.
Over 1,100 engineers are working on Boeing commercial airplane projects this year in Bangalore and Chennai. Adding other Boeing divisions, the company said it expects to have a total of more than 4,000 engineers by the end of the year.
Overseas development is part of Boeing hiring both globally and domestically.
“In total, we will be hiring approximately 9,000 engineers across both our domestic and international engineering sites by the end of this year,” Boeing said.
Recruitment must counter not only the loss of the engineering center in Moscow, but also the decline of hundreds of highly experienced American engineers who retired early to avoid affecting their pension payments.
Boeing declined to provide a projected net change for the year in the total number of engineers, saying it would not “speculate on attrition numbers.”
In July, Stan Deal, chief of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, stressed that even though his department moves engineering work elsewhere, it will keep its center of gravity in the Seattle area.
Deal then said, “We will still have major growth centers like Puget Sound.”
Bill Dugovich, a spokesman for Boeing’s white-collar union, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, is not pacified.
“All these engineering centers have jobs that were once in the US,” Dugovich said. “It’s always a concern when a company furloughs American engineers and hires them elsewhere.”
Hooper makes no apologies, noting that Boeing is competing against Big Tech companies and several space and electric airplane startups to hire American engineers.
“We are definitely in a war for talent for engineers both domestically and globally,” she said. “It’s been a very competitive talent market, especially here in Puget Sound.”
“We are interested in the talent we have globally that can help us with our mission at Boeing,” Hopper concluded. “That’s why we’re in countries like India and Ukraine and Poland and Brazil and almost every country in the world.”
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