EDMONDS, Washington (STPNS) -- Gubernatorial candidate and Congressman Jay Inslee, D-1st District, recently released a jobs plan to train more skilled workers for Washington state’s growing aerospace industry.

Rep. Inslee discussed his ideas on Feb. 22 during a visit to the Washington Aerospace Training & Research Center (WATR) in South Everett.

The WATR, located at Paine Field, is one of the keys to bringing a new workforce to aerospace.

“We have a huge challenge,” Inslee said. “How are we going to keep the Washington spirit of innovation alive? To do this, we have to have the skilled people.

“We now need a whole new generation of aerospace workers. The Boomers are starting to retire.”

Inslee has made job creation his top priority if elected governor. And, because aerospace is the state’s most important manufacturing sector, he said government needs to be proactive to ensure that Boeing and other aerospace companies have the workforce they need.

Addressing about 40 students at the WATR, he said, “We need to increase slots at centers like this, at community colleges and four-year universities, too. We have to have the full spectrum.”

Last year, he said, Washington state industry needed about 5,200 graduates in the sciences to fill open slots, but only about 2,000 graduated from Washington’s colleges.

Inslee said his jobs plan would include direct involvement by the governor’s office to ensure education centers were offering needed skills sets.

Further, he would work on updating recruitment and retention systems, improving military relationships, helping small businesses get started, and proposing a series of tax benefits for manufacturers here.

Despite tight purse strings, Inslee said he would propose a series of steps to free up funds for students needing financial assistance.

First, he would promote the lessons of “lean manufacturing” in state government.

He pointed to the state’s victory in securing the Boeing tanker contract, suggesting it was the workers who made it possible.

“It was the Boeing workers who won that contract,” Inslee said, “by bringing efficiencies to the line – lean manufacturing.

“We’ve got to get the state of Washington to follow that example.”

In addition, Inslee said the state could free up more money by improving health care, specifically by helping people stay healthy.

“Health care costs are eating us alive,” he said. “We can save money there.”

He said King County saved about $62 million last year. By taking small steps with an emphasis on preventive measures, the county got people to pay more attention to their health.

Inslee also would level the playing field by closing corporate tax loopholes and making that money available to people seeking an education.

“Putting people to work is key to economic improvement,” Inslee said.

He said Washington could further improve its reputation as a business-friendly state by updating and expanding infrastructure – freight mobility, in particular – and speeding up the permitting process.

Jason Redrup, business representative for District 751 of the Machinists Union, said Inslee’s proposals to help create a skilled workforce would be key in drawing more aerospace companies to Washington.

“We’re about the race to the top,” Redrup said. “We’ve got the most highly skilled workers.”

He said other states try luring industry with tax breaks and other enticements, “but we can offer the most highly skilled workforce in the world.”

Emphasizing the importance of manufacturing here, Inslee said, “Many people have said we should give up on manufacturing.

“That’s hogwash.”