Los Alamos National Laboratory looks to replace retiring employees

June 7, 2016 - Excerpted from an article by Rebecca Moss in The New Mexican

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory faces a mass exodus of seasoned employees over the next five years, creating openings for a new generation in its workforce, lab officials said on Wednesday, June 1.

Human Resource representatives from the lab and New Mexico community college presidents met in Santa Fe with U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., to discuss how the state’s smaller educational institutions can better prime students for careers at the lab.

The lab estimates 2,425 job vacancies will arise between now and 2020 in a variety of positions, from nuclear defense to operations — a reflection of the baby boomer generation reaching retirement age, rather than an increase in the lab’s budget.

Kathy Keith, a lab spokeswoman, said the lab is looking for cross-disciplinary students, not just scientists with doctorate degrees.

She presented data showing that 33 percent of current LANL employees hold a PhD, the same percentage as those who hold no degree.

The majority of the lab’s current workforce comes from out of state, with 40 percent from New Mexico.

The Los Alamos lab has faced budget cuts and instability in recent years as federal inspections identified significant shortcomings in management, operations and safety. Following a November inspection by the National Nuclear Security Administration, lab officials were notified the lab’s management contract would go up for bid when the existing contract expires in September 2017 — recently extended an additional year to provide for the transition to a new contractor.

“We are at a transition point because both the Sandia and Los Alamos contracts are going to be bid over the course of the next couple of years,” Senator Heinrich said in an interview with The New Mexican on Wednesday. “… It is an opportunity to hit the reset button and say, ‘Here’s what we expect and how are you going to meet that?’ ”

He said a competitive bidding process is the best way to improve the lab management and safety culture moving forward.

“When these contracts are rebid, it creates a lot of unease in the community because it’s an unknown,” he said. “But it also is an enormous opportunity to do better.”

This post was largely excerpted from a story by Rebecca Moss in The New Mexican.

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