- Associated Press - Monday, February 3, 2014

HILO, Hawaii (AP) - Big Island businesses and universities have been coordinating with managers of the planned Thirty Meter Telescope to develop workers for telescope-related jobs on the island.

They hope to establish a program that would create a pathway for island residents and students interested in technology and observatory-related jobs, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald (http://bit.ly/1bo0wyq) reported Monday.

A majority of observatory-related jobs on the island have gone off-island in the past, officials told Hawaii Island lawmakers during a presentation last month.

A 2007 survey found 40 percent of tech and administration positions went to overseas locations, and 86 percent of people hired were not born and not raised on Hawaii Island.

Several ideas to change this are already in the works, including a new engineering program at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Jerry Chang, UH-Hilo’s university relations director, said the program would develop a labor pool for projects like the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Other ideas include new and enhanced Hawaii Community College programs, observatory-related internships for Hawaii students and incentives to attract new astronomy-related industry.

One potential target area would be instrument development and operational support. Currently, all contracts for these jobs go overseas.

Sandra Dawson, a Thirty Meter Telescope spokeswoman, said the consortium has high hopes the $1.3 billion project will influence the Big Island’s economy in the same way the construction of a telescope affected the desert city of Tucson, Ariz.

“The people of the town saw an advantage to this. They started bringing experts in optics in, and now they’re the world center for optics. The university and government thought about this as a way to move forward. We’re thinking that we have telescopes, more than they do in Tucson, and we are looking on how we would develop a high-tech industry around the observatories.”

Thirty Meter Telescope Corp. hopes to begin construction in April and start operations in 2021. It will be the world’s largest optical telescope when it’s built.

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Information from: Hawaii Tribune-Herald, http://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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