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Long Beach to host job fair for those laid off from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

PUBLISHED: February 15, 2024 at 3:12 p.m. | UPDATED: February 15, 2024 at 3:13 p.m.

Long Beach will host a job fair next week for aerospace workers — particularly the more than 500 people laid off from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

The Space Beach Job Fair, which will also be open to Long Beach residents with appropriate aerospace skillsets, will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23, at the city’s WorkPlace facility, 4811 Airport Plaza Drive.

ABL Space Systems, AIBOT, Auriga Space, Benmo, Boeing, JetZero, NuSpace, Relativity Space, Rocket Lab and Vast Space are among the companies expected to participate in the job fair, according to a Thursday, Feb. 15, city announcement. Those companies, Long Beach said, will look to fill various positions, including in engineering, design, software development, project management and operations.

“We are proud to host this job fair for space and aerospace professionals who have been displaced by the NASA JPL layoffs,’’ Mayor Rex Richardson said in a statement. “It is imperative for the success of the regional space and aerospace sector to retain as much talent in Southern California as possible. Within Space Beach, there are endless opportunities for those impacted at NASA JPL to join the ranks of companies building satellites, spacecraft, space stations and rockets right here within our city limits.”

“Space Beach” is the nickname Long Beach officials and local economists gave the city in 2021 as it began to lure an increasing number of aerospace companies to town. AIBOT, JetZero, Rocket Lab and Relativity Space are among the myriad aerospace companies with operations in Long Beach.

It hasn’t been an uninterrupted ascent, though.

Early last year, for example, Virgin Orbit — which launched in Long Beach in 2017 — announced it would cease operations, file for bankruptcy and layoff the vast majority of its staff.

Around the same time, Astra Space Inc. reported that its cash and cash-equivalent reserves fell by 32% in the quarter ending Dec. 31, 2022. And Rocket Lab USA said in February 2023 that it expected its quarterly loss to be three times bigger than analysts had estimated.

But even at the time, city officials expressed confidence in the strength of the aerospace industry in Long Beach.

Long Beach, according to its Thursday announcement, has “the fastest growing space and advanced manufacturing cluster in the United States.”

In October, Rocket Lab announced it would open an Engine Development Center at Virgin Orbit’s former headquarters and then, the company nabbed a $515 million contract with the Space Development Agency to develop and operate 18 space vehicles that will comprise a network of military satellites.

And now, the city is trying to help connect its aerospace companies with the laid off JPL workers.

“This is a rare opportunity to connect available industry talent directly with the multitude of companies looking to fill vacancies as they are expanding and growing in Long Beach,” Bo Martinez, director of the city’s Economic Development Department, said in a statement. “We are confident that this job fair will result in many successful matches and help boost our local economy and innovation ecosystem.’’

Earlier this month, JPL announced it would lay off about 530 people as a cost-cutting measure, which would also include eliminating about 40 contractors.

The 530 layoffs represented about 8% of the lab’s total staffing.

JPL has been under pressure to cut costs, leading to a hiring freeze, a reduction in some Mars Sample Return mission contracts, budget cuts and eliminating some on-site contractors, JPL Director Laurie Leshin said previously.

NASA also told JPL to expect an MSR budget of $300 million, a 63% drop from the previous year, Leshin said.

“These cuts are among the most challenging that we have had to make,” Leshin said in a Feb. 6 staff memo, “even as we have sought to reduce our spending in recent months.”

Laid off workers would continue receiving their salaries for 60 days, and eligible employees would also be offered severance packages and transitional benefits, including placement services, JPL said.

Long Beach, meanwhile, is poised to help those workers get new jobs on the other side of Los Angeles County.

The job fair is only for those who were laid off from JPL or Long Beach residents with aerospace skills. Those interested in attending must register at pacific-gateway.org/spacebeach_hiring.

Participants will be able to meet with the talent recuitment teams for the various candidates, provide their resumes to them and talk about their skills. On-site interviews are possible, according to the city.

“We know that there are impacted employees of NASA JPL living in Long Beach so what a great way to help them quickly recover by finding opportunities closer to home,” Alisa Munoz, acting executive director of Pacific Gateway, within the Economic Development Department, said in a statement. “We encourage all eligible candidates to register and attend this job fair and take advantage of this unique chance to land their dream job.”

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