Mining Regional Talent

Raytheon Invests Heavily in Workforce Development

By Jay Gonzales

While Raytheon Missiles & Defense focuses on its primary task to develop the technologically advanced products and systems that protect our country, it finds itself in an ultra-competitive environment to attract the top talent needed for its mission.

Because of what it does as a business and the technology involved, it’s easy to think of Raytheon as a company comprised only of engineers who create, design and build the company’s products. But when there are 12,500 employees in one location, the array of skills needed is massive.

For Raytheon, the search for talent starts in Tucson but obviously doesn’t end there, said Heather Bigley, director of talent acquisition for Raytheon Missiles & Defense.

“We’re constantly on the hunt for local talent because we know there is a cost and investment in sourcing and relocating talent to Tucson,” Bigley said. “We would prefer to be able to have a greater population of qualified talent locally.”

Talent acquisition at Raytheon is an operation that involves the highest levels of the company and a level of strategy and innovation that stretches around the globe.

Allen Couture, VP of operations and security, is focused on the company’s manufacturing operation to make sure Raytheon is producing for its customers. At the same time, he knows that to meet those expectations, Raytheon must have talent at all levels. While Raytheon competes with companies locally, nationally and even globally, Couture said he recognizes that the company can’t work in a silo expecting to attract the best.

“I think workforce development is key to the continued growth and the success of all Arizona businesses and I don’t think it’s unique to us,” Couture said. “I think a lot of businesses are going through the same challenges. For us, a skilled workforce is critical from advanced degrees in engineering, but so is our vocation training.

“It’s very necessary for us to continue to invest in those types of roles and education. Lately our job growth is increasingly focused on those with a college education or specialized technical certification. Quite frankly, we’re monitoring trends in the workforce and getting the talent pipeline filled because we do see the potential availability to decline as we get out through 2030.”

Raytheon actively partners with and supports numerous institutions, including the University of Arizona, Pima Community College and the high schools. In January, it awarded a $100,000 grant to Pima Joint Technical Education District for a 4,000-square-foot event center at the JTED’s new Innovative Learning Center @ The Bridges. 

“It’s incredibly important to reach out and partner with the educational institutions to help grow the next generation of employees for our business and not just in engineering,” Couture said. “There are tons of different roles. There’s an incredible employee base in Arizona in the vocational areas, in the technical trades, in manufacturing.”

At Pima JTED, Raytheon has become a trailblazer that is equipping a workforce with skills that don’t necessarily require a college degree but can also lead to one, said Kathy Prather, superintendent and CEO at Pima JTED.

“I think the most important piece of this relationship is Raytheon’s understanding that career and technical education students are the future talent,” Prather said. “Raytheon has a very purposeful plan to work and support what’s happening in our classroom.”

In doing so, Prather said, other companies are coming along and supporting the technical education work JTED does to provide a broader workforce for the community.

“I would say Raytheon has set the bar for leadership in inspiring other local companies to engage at many different levels,” Prather said. “They really have taken that leadership role and the other organizations are seeing that and I think it’s safe to say we have more engagement right now than we have ever seen before in our business and industry advisory committees.”

Joe Snell, president and CEO at Sun Corridor Inc., credits Raytheon’s talent acquisition emphasis with helping the region continue to produce the talent that helps not only the defense giant, but other companies here tapping into the pipeline.

“Talent drives all market decisions. It has since the early 80s and it will continue to drive them,” Snell said. “The reason Raytheon stayed here, put their missile headquarters here, primarily is they felt comfortable that they could attract talent.”

Bill Gundrey heads Raytheon’s digital transformation unit that develops technology and systems to better the entire product development lifecycle. They are constantly identifying needs for new skills in computing, technology and security, and always on the hunt inside and outside the company.

“Digital technology is foundational. It’s our networking, our infrastructure, our business applications, our data, our processes, and even our culture − that complete information infrastructure,” Gundrey said. “Digital transformation is, really, how we leverage that to build our products and solutions for our customers faster than we ever have before.”

“There’s a war for talent now so,  we’re putting a lot of investment in it,” he added. That investment is internal as well as external. Raytheon is putting significant effort into getting its existing workforce trained with new and advanced skills.

“We’re encouraging folks to go get the cyber degree, go get a certification,” Gundrey said. “Developing our internal talent in some of these areas is critical. But we have to go recruit external talent, too.”

Raytheon is mining talent through UArizona’s College of Engineering. Pima Community College offers a respected aviation technology program and is currently expanding its aviation tech center. Pima JTED, where Raytheon opened its namesake event center, offers courses in precision manufacturing, aviation technology, robotics and drone operation.

At Sunnyside High School, the closest high school to the company’s facility south of Tucson International Airport, Raytheon has developed a valuable partnership since 2017 in which the company hosts student workers who contribute across 11 different Raytheon departments. All students receive a Raytheon laptop to use at work, as well as a badge. 

“We invest hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in many different statewide programs,” Bigley said. “It’s important to help our community build a pipeline to have access to some higher paying jobs.

“Tucson is a great place for the company because there’s a lot of innovation happening locally. There are a lot of partnerships that take place through industry and academia, and I think that has to continue.”

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