There’s a famous movie quote that says, “if you build it, they will come.” When it comes to finding the right employee talent for the county’s important aerospace industry, the saying is becoming, “let’s grow them here, not just bring them here.”
Recruiting home-grown talent to fill aerospace jobs in East Kern has been an issue on local aerospace companies’ minds for years.
“When we looked at the obstacles to hiring good employees, we realized that having good qualified candidates requires looking at ways of enticing local individuals to apply,” said retired Technical Director at China Lake Naval Weapons Center (NWC), Gregory Whitlock “But how do we connect the dots between education and employment? How do we grow them here?”
The B3K Prosperity Aerospace Talent to Industry Exchange (TIE) launched to help connect the dots and bridge the gap between education and meaningful employment in our local aerospace industry.
East Kern is home to the Mojave Air and Space Port, Edwards Air Force Base, and China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station, some of the world’s leading public and private aerospace and defense assets. The B3K Market Assessment, completed in 2020, pointed to the Aerospace industry as one of five opportunity industries, traded sectors where the Bakersfield-Kern region is both highly competitive for growth and that create a high-proportion of Good and Promising Jobs.
However, the Market Assessment also found threats to the region’s aerospace industry. With serious global competition on the rise, we have to focus on developing a talent pool with educational attainment and access to quality jobs to sustain and grow the industry.
Beyond global issues, East Kern faces other challenges closer to home. Federal research centers face massive retirements in the next five years. And, for small and large companies, access to high-skilled talent is inhibited by both the absence of a four-year university in the immediate area and the lack of other specialized training programs at scale.
But this is changing.
The Aerospace TIE launched in May 2022, bringing together the industry and educational institutions. Its purpose is to build the base for pathways from education to employment in Good and Promising Jobs in East Kern.
At their second gathering in November, industry and educational leaders discussed the immediate goals for TIE:
- More effectively identifying employer needs
- Enabling career and technical education and higher education institutions access to real-time data that assesses the industry’s talent needs by occupation and skill level
- Creating quality jobs that reflect the region’s diversity
Educational institutions including Kern County Superintendent of Schools, Kern Community College District, Antelope Valley College and Cal State Bakersfield (CSUB) are already on board. Together with industry representatives, they continue to collaborate on avenues of education and job training that will meet the needs of the aerospace industry now and in the future.
When focusing on the path to higher education and job creation, CSUB looks to play a pivotal role.
“As the only public four-year university within 90 miles, CSUB is committed to providing a quality education to the students in East Kern while also proactively engaging as a community partner to meet regional needs,” commented Dr. Kristen Watson, Chief of Staff to the President at CSUB. “Through intentional and organized collaboration, this industry has limitless potential and CSUB looks forward to investing and supporting the effort.”
To achieve the goals set forth in the TIE, pathways from education to employment are only successful when combined with quality job opportunities. With this in mind, aerospace employers such as Northrop Grumman have become part of TIE.
“At Northrop Grumman, we have a strong demand for aircraft mechanics and services,” said Rebecca Sweeney, Palmdale People Strategy Manager. “This includes structures mechanics, composite technicians, and electricians with varying levels of expertise. Programs and educational institutions that support the development of these capabilities (such as aircraft fabrication) play a symbiotic role in the ability to meet workforce planning and talent demand.”
She also made the case for career advancement for all levels of employment, stating “for those who excel in their role, there is an exceptional opportunity for growth. In fact, our Vice President of Operations started his career at Northrop Grumman in the paint shop!”
When it comes to aerospace employment opportunities, opportunities are endless. The TIE collaboration found there is a need for workers with all skill levels; from part-time to full-time; from technicians to cybersecurity professionals.
By providing educational pathways to Quality Jobs, the Aerospace TIE is helping achieve our goal of bringing 100,000 more Quality Jobs to our region. Partnerships like this are key to ensuring that all residents have access to opportunities to improve their quality of life.
You can learn more about Aerospace and our other Opportunity Industries at b3kprosperity.org/opportunity-industries/.