What Aerospace Valley learned from unimagined crisis

(Courtesy image)

by Larry Grooms, special to Aerotech News
LANCASTER, Calif.—Sixty-six years after the region’s leaders organized to confront economy-killing aircraft industry shutdowns, a new generation successor organization gathered this month to discuss the Aerospace Valley’s survival and emergence from a crisis nobody imagined — the global pandemic.

Leading off a two-hour ZOOM meeting seen by individuals and small group audiences at more than 500 pre-registered viewing locations, leaders representing a cross-section of regional institutions talked about lessons learned and what may lie ahead for the health, wealth and quality of life in America’s Aerospace Valley.

Panel moderator Jeff Michael, an award-winning television reporter and anchor for CBS Channel 2 and KCAL Channel 9 in Los Angeles, posed the questions, beginning with: “What are the bright spots?”

Kabir Sethi, addressing a financial industry perspective from his office in New York, said, “We can succeed in a hybrid world, which opens the possibilities for a five or six-year jump” in productivity by increasing opportunities for working outside a traditional office.

Jeff Babione, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works, acknowledged possible gains in efficiency in some areas, but cautioned that the very nature of the security, communications, working relationships and creative interaction limit the number of people who can effectively work remotely. He said the jury is still out pending more experience.

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Kaiser-Permanente regional Vice President Payman Roshan said the pandemic crisis “pushed us into learning lots of new ways to deliver care,” including virtual medical appointments.

Skip Hansen, executive with Learn for Life Charter Schools, said school shutdowns and sudden dependency on virtual learning immediately made all schools, both public and private, aware of the internet gap. One rapid action involved creation of hot spots for school sites and renewal of pressure for legislation to put computers into the hands of children in households not online.

Moderator Michael’s second question was whether giving long-distance commuters the option to work from their most affordable homes in Southern California makes the Antelope Valley the ideal location for companies embarking on a hybrid workforce?

The question raised further questions about variables involved in creating a successful hybrid job model that would be acceptable to employers, households with two working adults and children who might not be in school, and homes without Wi-Fi infrastructure. AVEDGE Executive Director Rhonda Perez, who was hosting the session, said Lancaster is working to install streetlights with capacity to provide digital service, and Palmdale is enhancing its information transmission system.

Building on the observation from CompTIA executive Angel Pineiro that there is a shortage of trained IT personnel, Hansen offered the view that “We’ve got amazing pathways and programs for a lot of amazing jobs.” But he commented that gaps in funding and policies that diminish the value of career education limit opportunities for kids to prepare, and changes in technology are coming so fast that teachers are being deprived of training opportunities.

Pineiro said it is difficult to understand why technical and career education for an electrician is classified as an elective instead of being a core subject. He said reliance on classroom learning to the exclusion of hands-on training makes little sense. Hansen said one solar installation company in San Bernardino opened its solar factory for students at no cost to the schools, and he bemoaned the loss of field trips to work sites.

Michael’s final question to the industry panelists opened the door to further discussion:

We never imagined the COVID-19 Pandemic. What’s the next thing that we haven’t imagined?

To receive an online copy of the 2021 Economic Roundtable Report from AVEDGE visit, https://southstreetdigital.com/AVEDGE/

Conference sponsors by category

Government: Antelope Valley Transit Authority, City of Lancaster, City of Palmdale, Los Angeles County, L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, Antelope Valley Air Quality Management District, and Workforce Development Aging & Community Services

Aerospace Sector: Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, Northrop Grumman, Mojave Air and Space Port, and George Whitesides, Chief Space Officer for Virgin Galactic

Other Industry, financial sector and small business: BYD (Build Your Dream), IBEW Local 2 and NECA LA, Bank of America, RE/MAX All-Pro and Jersey Mike’s Subs

Utilities: So Cal Gas (Sempra Energies)

Education: Antelope Valley College District and University of Antelope Valley

Health care: Kaiser-Permanente and Palmdale Regional Medical Center

Communications media, marketing: Aerotech News, Antelope Valley Press, High Desert Broadcasting, Lamar Advertising, Bob FM 103.9, 100.9 The Heat, 87.7 Country Gold and Ke Padre 104.9 FM.

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