BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Some 70 percent of recent Los Alamos National Laboratory hires were from New Mexico, Director Thom Mason said during Wednesday’s virtual Community Conversations event. He said 319 of last year’s hires were craft employees.
In what appeared to be a pre-recorded speech, Mason said the Laboratory is committed to improving the quality of life in the region.
“We have a particular focus on education, workforce development and working with area nonprofits. Every year we invest and partner in economic development initiatives that stimulate business growth, create jobs, and strengthen communities, particularly those around us in Northern New Mexico,” he said.
Mason said the skilled trades are really pivotal to the work that being done at LANL, especially given the recent and planned facility upgrades in the Laboratory’s growing footprint.
“We’ve been called upon by our nation to reconstitute the capability for manufacturing pits that are part of our nuclear deterrent that keeps us safe every day, and between the growth associated with this new manufacturing mission and the need to revise our infrastructure more broadly, as well as the expected retirements of people who have moved on to a new phase of life, we are in a growth mode,” he said.
Mason said the LANL has been hiring new employees at the rate of 1,200 a year for the past couple of years.
“We’ve been vigorously partnering with the institutions around us to expand education opportunities. Our joint pipeline programs are training the workforce in areas as diverse as special nuclear materials machining and radiation control technicians. We’ve launched degrees with Northern New Mexico College, Santa Fe Community College, UNM and also a program to train high schoolers in the crafts – the skilled trades – and our aim in programs like this is to cultivate talent for the Lab, provide educational opportunities for both local students and LANL employees who want to further their education.” Mason said.
He added that the Laboratory’s regional recruiting efforts are definitely paying off.
“If you look at our recent hires, 70 percent of them came from New Mexico. We’re certainly working hard to expand craft workforce – 319 of our hires last year were craft employees so this is a critical area for us and one that we’re working in partnership with the New Mexico Building Trades Council,” Mason said. “We’ve been working to support the nation’s science, technology and engineering needs for national security for more than 75 years and the world we live in now is a times a scary place so there has been strong support for those national security missions that’s enabling us to do all this work.”
Mason introduced Ted Wyka who recently took the helm as manager of the Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration’s Los Alamos Field Office. Wyka noted that Wednesday’s event was the first opportunity has had to address a broad audience in conjunction with Mason.
“These Community Conversations have proven to be widely attended and a great forum for updating the community on matters that the Laboratory is presenting. You get to hear from us first-hand about our challenges and potential opportunities that may also affect the community. We also value the input you provide in these ongoing conversations,” he said.
Wyka noted that he and his wife are happy to be back in Northern New Mexico.
“I previously served as deputy manager here in Los Alamos a couple of years ago and I truly enjoy the community. I’m looking forward to working with you and to getting to know the community leaders in the region,” he said. “The director has informed you in the past of the need to bring aboard additional talent to meet our future mission needs. It’s a high priority challenge which the Laboratory is performing well in its efforts to accomplish, much of which is due to partnerships with you and others.”
He said NNSA is firmly committed to “supporting the Lab’s talent through recruitment efforts and its forming partnerships with higher education institutions to develop a skilled workforce to benefit the Laboratory and the region as a whole”.
Wyka also noted that October is National Hispanic Heritage Month and gave a shout out to the Hispanic community “who add great contributions to NNSA’s missions as well as the nation’s”.
“I hope to participate in future Community Conversation events, especially in person when we have the opportunity to do that,” he said.