Presentation #514.02 in the session “Education and Public Engagement III: TMT”.
COVID-19 has significantly upended Hawaii Island’s communities with hardships more severe than the Great Recession. With a central economy based on tourism, unemployment rates have skyrocketed and the community is heavily relying on other industries to survive and recover. Fortunately, the Maunakea Observatories have had a significant impact by donating PPE, making food bank deliveries, and creating online educational content for students. The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), despite its delay in construction, has also contributed sizeable donations to the food bank, covering a large part of the Big Island’s food needs. The future of astronomy in Hawaii, including TMT, is an essential industry in Hawaii that will continue to play an active role in Hawaii’s economic recovery, especially with its Workforce Pipeline Program as an initiative to specifically attract more Hawai`i residents into high tech jobs within the state. This initiative focuses on preparing local residents for jobs in STEM-related fields that command higher wages, allowing more to stay in Hawai`i with flexible upward mobility in the industry. By promoting and training Hawai`i residents for careers in astronomy and other tech industries, TMT is spearheading the diversification of the local workforce pool that will be more resistant to inevitable economic fluctuations, while raising the status of Hawai`i as a global leader in science and technology.