How Northrop Grumman Scrap Metal is Supporting the Next Generation of Welders
By Matt McKinney
Last July, as Environmental Remediation Project Manager Johanna worked to organize a crowded stockroom at Northrop Grumman’s Space Park site in Redondo Beach, California, she spotted a range of two-foot-thick pieces of aluminum and other hefty, manufacturing materials that were no longer in use.
“I started thinking, how easy would it be to donate these items and free up space rather than leaving them unused or sending them to the landfill?” said Johanna, who also leads greeNG South Bay, a sustainability-focused employee resource group.
That simple question turned a storage optimization project into a donation effort, with the company transferring more than $40,000 worth of manufacturing materials to nearby community partners.
Recycling to Rebuild Lives
Johanna teamed up with Northrop Grumman’s Engineering Property Systems team, which manages the company’s flow of materials and equipment. They helped identify and catalogue materials that would be available for donation, and then worked with the Property Management team to secure the necessary approvals. With the permissions secured, they needed a destination for their donation.
After researching potential recipients, Johanna contacted ReIGNITE Hope, a local nonprofit welding school in Gardena, California, that serves formerly incarcerated and homeless populations. The school, which equips students with the skills necessary to land jobs and help address the nationwide shortage of skilled welders, responded enthusiastically.
Steve, president of ReIGNITE Hope, said the donation will help create opportunities for hundreds of people in his program to begin to rebuild their lives.
“I was just thrilled when this opportunity came up,” Steve said. “I told Johanna, ‘If you could donate to us, that would be a huge blessing.’”
From Stockroom to Classroom
Johanna knew they were on to something and began working with Cindy, a member of Northrop Grumman’s Corporate Citizenship team, to identify a second community partner to take the rest of the materials.
Cindy recommended reaching out to a longtime partner in the Space Park community, Hawthorne High School, and its celebrated School of Manufacturing and Engineering (SM&E). More than 80% of Hawthorne’s students are from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds, said Cindy, and more than 1 in 5 are English as a second language learners.
Beyond its several dozen alumni who work at Northrop Grumman, Hawthorne High School’s SM&E is connected to the company in many ways. Its program director, Lucas, is a former Northrop Grumman intern, and in 2022, Northrop Grumman issued a $17,500 grant to help set up tool storage in the program’s new facilities and donated raw materials and tables to expand student workspaces.
Lucas determined that his students could use most of the remaining materials; the metal could help students learn skills on the program’s new water jet and cold metal transfer equipment, with bigger pieces dedicated for larger projects down the road. The donation will supply Hawthorne with enough sheet metal for the next five years.
“This donation is really helpful,” Lucas said. “To run a manufacturing program is not cheap. But training our next generation of technicians is something that is very much needed right now.”
Giving is a Privilege
On a Friday morning in February, the partners loaded the materials onto flatbed trucks. The recycled items set off to make a difference in the community, one student at a time.
The donation both freed up Northrop Grumman storage space while supporting community groups who might otherwise struggle to afford the materials, Johanna said.
“Giving is a privilege, and I am fortunate to work for a company that has the resources and is willing to generously give to benefit others,” she said. “This effort was even more fulfilling because many of the items donated would have gone to a landfill, increasing our footprint on the planet. Instead, we found a new purpose for them.”
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