AIKEN, S.C. – A $5 million grant that DOE recently awarded to a local nonprofit will strengthen the workforce pool needed to support the EM and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) missions, particularly at the Savannah River Site (SRS).
“EM will need a talent pipeline to continue forward with progress tackling the environmental cleanup legacy. Continuing our partnership with the Savannah River Site Community Reuse Organization (SRSCRO) and the regional academic community is a great resource to accomplish that goal,” said Kristen Ellis, EM senior advisor for STEM and talent acquisition.
Mindy Mets, director of regional workforce programs for SRSCRO, said the grant award allows local citizens across the South Carolina and Georgia region to have multiple pathways to develop critical skills needed in today’s workforce.
“DOE’s support of the Workforce Opportunities in Regional Careers (WORC) program is making a meaningful impact in the lives of local citizens in our community,” Mets said.
With a total estimated value of $5 million for five budget periods, the grant helps ensure that local residents have opportunities to develop skills needed for careers relevant to the EM and NNSA missions. Through the grant, local colleges and universities will provide education and training that align with SRS and regional employer requisite skills, experience, certifications, and proficiency across multiple scientific, engineering, technical, craft, and business-support disciplines.
Augusta University’s nuclear science program is funded by the WORC grant. Brooke Stagich was a student in the program, and she is grateful for the experience. She currently works as a senior scientist at Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL).
“The WORC grant and Augusta University’s nuclear science program made up a significant part of shaping my future. They opened the door to a long road of opportunities that eventually led to my current career path,” Stagich said.
Alaina Adams works as a laboratory technician at SRNL. She completed the Environmental Remediation and Restoration Program at the University of South Carolina Aiken. The program is supported by the WORC grant.
“I am blessed with a great job, which I may not have attained if it was not for my education,” Adams said. “Things in life tend to fall in line where they are supposed to when you take the right path in life.”
The latest $5 million grant is a renewal of the first $5 million WORC grant DOE awarded to the SRSCRO in 2016. Both grants build on the previous EM-funded Advancing Nuclear Skills Regionally (ANSR) Program. That program, which began 10 years ago, established new nuclear training certificate and degree programs at local colleges and universities.
The WORC programs include student scholarships, student retention strategies, student outreach, and promotion of relevant education and training programs, including those developed through the ANSR Program. To date, over 1,200 local scholarships have been awarded to students through these programs, helping fill the SRS workforce pipeline.
WORC academic partners in South Carolina are Aiken Technical College, University of South Carolina Aiken, and University of South Carolina Salkehatchie. WORC academic partners in Georgia are Augusta Technical College and Augusta University. SRSCRO serves as the fiscal agent and provides management and coordination of regional efforts for the WORC programs.
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