Editor's note: This story was published in 2015.
Laken Sommer started working at Spirit AeroSystems three weeks ago as an assembly mechanic – and he didn’t have any aircraft manufacturing experience.
But the former Culver-Stockton College pitcher whose baseball career – and college career – ended with a shoulder injury a couple of years ago did have mechanical aptitude.
Spirit officials are looking for more Laken Sommers as the company works to keep pace with attrition and robust demand for the major commercial aircraft components it builds.
“There’s unprecedented demand for our products,” said Jim Hans, director of operations for Spirit’s 737 fuselage program. “We have a $46 billion backlog. There are not many companies that can say that about their products.”
On Saturday, the company will host a job fair at its employment office at 3420 S. Oliver. The fair is primarily aimed at filling 350 openings for assembly mechanics like Sommer. Spirit officials said aircraft manufacturing experience is not required to apply for an assembly mechanic position, just mechanical aptitude.
Sommer said he came to Spirit from a construction job he had been working for the past year. Since joining Spirit last month, he has been through two weeks of training and is now learning different tasks that an assembly mechanic does. On Thursday, Sommers was learning how to seal a 737 fuel tank.
“What I was doing before there wasn’t much opportunity to further myself,” Sommer said. “… I’d like to stay here for as long as I can and mover up the ladder and be a manager or even higher at some point.”
Hans said most of the assembly mechanics Spirit is looking to hire are for the 737. Spirit builds the fuselage and other major components of Boeing’s best-selling single aisle passenger jet. Production of the 737 is expected to increase.
“We’re at a stable 42 airplanes a month rate,” Hans said. “We have plans to go to 47 a month in the future.”
The rate of 47 a month is expected to begin this year. And Boeing has said it wants to further increase the 737 production rate to 52 a month by 2018, by which time it will be producing the 737 MAX, the next generation of the 737 aircraft.
Hans said while the focus is on hiring assembly mechanics, the company is seeking to fill other positions, for a total of 500 jobs.
The job fair is set for 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday.
Spirit prefers that interested candidates fill out an online application before attending the job fair and bring a resume with them. Applications can be accessed at www.spiritaero.com/careers.
If you go
Spirit AeroSystems job fair
The Wichita-based manufacturer of major commercial aircraft parts is looking to fill 500 positions, 350 of which are assembly mechanics.
When: 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday
Where: Spirit AeroSystems Employment Office, 3420 S. Oliver
For more information and to fill out an application online, go to www.spiritaero.com/careers.