Hawker Beechcraft plans to hire engineers, others

Hawker Beechcraft uttered two words Thursday that haven't been used by Wichita's business jet builders for some time.

"We're hiring."

Hawker Beechcraft plans to add more than 100 engineers by the end of the year, including 60 in the next three or four months.

It also plans to hire 40 to 50 people in its supply chain and operations areas in the next 90 to 120 days.

"To be able to do this in the current environment is a very exciting thing for our company," said Rich Jiwanlal, Hawker Beechcraft's vice president for human resources.

The need to hire arises as Hawker Beechcraft designs new products, upgrades existing ones and explores new markets for its commercial and military products, Jiwanlal said.

The company "is exploring international markets very, very aggressively," he said.

Wichita lost thousands of aviation jobs as the economy took a downturn and manufacturers experienced slow orders and cancellations.

Now, Hawker Beechcraft is seeking project, electrical, manufacturing, powerplant and avionics and systems engineers with varying degrees of experience, including recent college graduates and managers.

The company is using a variety of ways to attract employees.

It's reinstating a referral incentive plan that gives cash awards to employees. The program was popular three years ago when the aviation industry was robust and the company was recruiting heavily, Jiwanlal said.

It also plans to run ads in key cities such as Dallas, Albuquerque, Seattle and St. Louis for engineers.

And it's retained contract recruiters and search firms.

As may be expected, Hawker Beechcraft is finding it easier to recruit than in previous years when the industry was strong.

"There is a bigger pool of talented individuals available to us than three years ago," Jiwanlal said.

Engineers also want to join the company because of "some of the exciting things that are taking place here — the growth of our government business, international expansion and the fact that the company is investing in the future of this company — and we really are," Jiwanlal said.