LANL Director Thom Mason
By BONNIE J. GORDON
Los Alamos Daily Post
Los Alamos National Laboratory hosted a Conversation on Education and Workforce Wednesday via Zoom.
LANL Community Partnerships Office Director Kathy Keith moderated the event.
Laboratory Director Thom Mason opened the meeting addressing Laboratory workforce needs.
“The Laboratory has been in a mode of increased hiring,” Mason said. “About half of the new employees are replacing retirees and the other half represent staff growth. This is the highest rate of hiring in 30 years.”
Jobs span a wide range of skills. Most require specialized training, but only 20-25 percent of the staff are scientists or engineers, Mason said. Skilled trades, business support, technicians and others also are employed at LANL.
Around 40 percent of Lab employees are New Mexicans and the Lab is working to increase those numbers, he said
Mason pointed to several partnerships with area educational institutions. The newest is a program for machinists at Santa Fe Community College. Another new program is a program with UNM-Los Alamos leading to a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. Students first earn an associate degree, then a BS while working at LANL, Mason explained. The Lab is exploring partnerships at New Mexico Tech and building trades programs with several high schools as well.
LANL has worked to continue hiring momentum during the pandemic.
“It’s exciting to see all these new faces,” Mason said. “I look forward to seeing them in person!”
Lt. Gov. Howie Morales spoke next, Wednesday via Zoom.
“For too long, the focus has been on achievement and proficiency only, when we should have also been focusing on student engagement,” he said. “We need programs that lead to well-rounded students.”
Morales pointed to his father’s experience as a non-high school graduate, when he lost his job due to the closure of the mine he worked in. He retrained for a new career and was able to have a better standard of living as well as earn his high school diploma.
“Always remember compassion, kindness and love—love for our communities and for our students,” Morales concluded.
Secretary Bill McCamley of the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions and Secretary Ryan Stewart of the New Mexico Public Education Department spoke about workforce alignment and industry partnerships.
“Our goal is to get New Mexicans into careers where they can do well,” McCamley said, adding that childcare is one of the biggest problems for New Mexicans.
Steward pointed to the importance of capturing students’ interest in middle and high school.
“We need to integrate math curriculum with explaining about the role of math in various careers,” he said. “We need to build collaborations with employers in each region so students can explore their opportunities.”
A panel discussion exploring workforce training with representatives from Battelle Education, N3B, Santa Fe Community College and Pojoaque Valley School District followed the remarks.