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Not lost in space: Alabama Space Roundtable members in search of workforce

HUNTSVILLE — Heeding a call to action to fill expected needs in a space-related workforce, the Alabama Space Roundtable held its inaugural meeting today.

The gathering, hosted by North AlabamaWorks at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, featured executives from multiple corporations involved with the space industry.

Responding to industry needs and the National Space Council’s call for a skilled workforce, roundtable members will drive the future of space talent to inspire, train, and employ students and workers, bridging aspirations with skills to ensure a strong workforce pipeline for the industry

“I certainly don’t want to portray the feeling that we’ve got it all figured out because we don’t. But we have done a lot,” said David Smith, United Launch Alliance senior technical fellow. “In my role as a senior tech fellow for our company I have the privilege of working on a whole lot of levels with people. From executives all the way down so with that being the case I see a lot of very talented folks.

“Our design teams for what they can do and the talent that they have on the engineering side is just unbelievable. We have some of the best mechanical engineers, aerospace engineers, and all of the other engineers you can imagine in our company doing some very great things.”

Cindy Robinson, executive director and CEO of the the Space & Rocket Center, shared some general information about the facility.

“We are commissioned by the state of Alabama and have been since 1965, just take that in,” Robinson said. “That’s a very long time. We are the official visitor center for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. We are the official visitor center also for Tennessee Valley Authority and we are one of the largest Smithsonian institution affiliates in the country.

“As a matter of fact, we are the number one paid tourist attraction in the state of Alabama. We’ve welcomed more than 20 million visitors.”

She also spoke about how it contributes to the space industry.

(Austen Shipley/256 Today)

“We have a program called Mission Blast that Boeing sponsors to help us with people making the transition to college or the workforce,” she said. “And then, guess what? After a year of college we hire those kids back and they come in and they help us train the next generation and while they’re here we help them get internships at ULA, Lockheed Martin, other companies around here.”

Tracey Lamm, director of Business Development at Lockheed Martin, said at one time he was a NASA intern.

“I didn’t know what an intern was, co op , and all that stuff. Went over one day, the next day I found out I was working for NASA because of the contracting area,” he said. “I learned a whole lot there and I learned about mission success.”

Lamm talked briefly about some of the work at the company’s Courtland facility and gave a call to action.

“The AMTAP (Advanced Manufacturing Technician Apprenticeship Program) … We use that a whole lot in Lockheed Martin, especially in the Courtland area,” he said. “We train folks in a matter of weeks to start learning about maybe wiring harness assembly, maybe welding.

“We are at a critical juncture. The time is now. There is so much going on whether it be civil space, whether it be military space, or national security.”

Austen Shipley is a staff writer 256today and Yellowhammer News.

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