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LANL Targets Higher Education; Workforce Planning

on October 18, 2017 - 7:41am

Los Alamos National Laboratory Community Partnership Office Executive Director Kathy Keith and Technology Transfer Division Leader Dave Pesiri address the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities board meeting Friday in Espanola. Photo by Maire O'Neill/


Los Alamos Daily Post


Los Alamos National Laboratory is focusing on higher education and workforce planning for Northern New Mexico, Kathy Keith, executive director of the LANL Community Partnerships Office told the Coalition of LANL Communities Board Friday at their quarterly meeting in Espanola.

Keith told the Board that the Lab’s current workforce level is a little more than 11,000, not including contract employees. She said 45 percent of those hired in 2016 were under the age of 35 and 35 percent of those hired between June 2016 and May 2017 were born in New Mexico.

“We are building the workforce that will lead the Lab forward,” she said.

Keith said a two-year commitment has been made with New Mexico First, a public policy organization involved in various issues facing communities, under which they will assist the Lab in focusing on higher education partnerships, programs and alignment for the first year. In the second year, the focus will shift to engaging kindergarten through 12th grade education leaders with higher education partners to develop and implement a comprehensive regional pipeline and workforce development strategy.

Keith said what is being heard from the higher education community is that there are not enough students coming into their funnel who are interested in STEM opportunities.

“We don’t have enough students who see themselves as being interested in STEM or being able to succeed in STEM careers,” she said. “What they also told us was they don’t think that’s an accurate representation. They think we have students with a lot of aptitude in these areas but don’t really see themselves in those kinds of careers.”

Keith said this was why they decided at the beginning of this process to introduce kindergarten through 12th grade into the system as well. She said since 2006, the LANL Math and Science Academy has worked in elementary schools in Northern New Mexico to support the teaching of mathematics. She discussed a newly announced partnership with Pojoaque Valley School District and Highlands University that supports pre-service and in-service teachers with math training.

“We’re not changing the curriculum, we’re changing how math is taught,” Keith said, adding that initially the principal and two teachers from each school will be involved and take the training back to their schools.

“We’re starting with teachers because teachers are touching hundreds of students every day. They will be teaching thousands of students coming through the system in years to come,” she said. “Giving teachers the best tools to be the best teachers they can be and supporting them is the way to go in terms of moving forward in changing the way we teach math in Northern New Mexico.”

Schools in Los Alamos, Cuba, Abiquiu, Taos and Jemez Valley are involved in the project.

Keith also discussed the projected number of people the Lab anticipates hiring in the next five years. The list includes, 24 accountants, 60 administrative assistants, 115 computing systems professionals, 89 computing systems techs, 45 construction engineers, 25 designer/drafters, 14 development and fabrication techs, 14 document control analysts, 50 engineered systems techs, 63 engineering technologists, 35 machinists, 2 maintenance support specialists, 19, operations support specialists, 23 operators, 28 process and sampling techs, 14 production control specialists, 41 professional staff assistants, 78 project controls, 7 property specialists, 17 radiation control techs, 249 research techs, 144 research technologists,  36 security specialists, 9 service center representatives and 49 technical project managers.

Keith said there are about 1,000 craft or skilled labor employees at the Lab involved in areas such as facilities, maintenance and repairs - making the Lab the largest labor workforce in the state. She also described a partnership between Local UA 412 in Questa and the local high school in which the union has reviewed the existing welding course and will co-instruct the class next semester.

Classes will expand in Spring 2019 to community members with the addition of the University of New Mexico-Taos as the higher education partner. Keith said the program is part of the strategic economic development plan for a post-mining economy and aligned with the community needs.