OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – Community college partnerships can help the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management (EM) sites build their workforces, providing a pipeline of local qualified workers needed for cleanup.
Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management lead cleanup contractor UCOR has experienced such success through a collaboration with Roane State Community College in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Established in 2017, UCOR’s partnership with Roane State began with support of the college’s efforts to create an associate degree in chemical engineering technology.
To address a shortage of skilled workers needed to perform cleanup in Oak Ridge, UCOR partnered with the AFL-CIO Metal Trades Department to work with the college to offer a chemical operator program that provides students coursework and hands-on training through apprenticeships.
Haley Glandon had been working as a nanny after completing her bachelor’s degree in business administration. She planned to continue her education.
“My father encouraged me to consider career options on the Oak Ridge Reservation that would utilize my love for math and science,” Glandon said.
She and three other students were chosen to participate in the pilot apprenticeship class in 2019. It led to a career change for Glandon and many others who have since completed the program.
During the apprenticeship, Glandon worked during the day and attended classes in the evening. Though Glandon’s apprenticeship was shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she and the rest of the pilot class are now journeyman chemical operators supporting the Liquid Gaseous Waste Operations at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).
Twelve students have joined the apprenticeship program since the inaugural class.
The success of the chemical operator program and apprentices like Glandon paved way for a new Roane State collaboration to enhance UCOR’s environmental health technology program. That program trains students for careers in the growing field of environmental protection, health and safety, and site remediation.
In addition to hosting industrial hygiene interns and radiological protection technician apprentices through that program, UCOR offers guest lectures and demonstrations with state-of-the-art equipment not available in classrooms.
Emma Richesin was UCOR’s first industrial hygiene intern through this collaboration. After completing her internship in 2022, she became a senior industrial hygiene technician trained to identify, measure and analyze workplace hazards to enhance the safety of workers.
Richesin’s work on demolition projects at ORNL shows the payoff of having well-trained industrial hygienists enable successful completion of cleanup activities across the Oak Ridge Reservation.
The collaboration with Roane State has drawn from the surrounding community and expanded UCOR’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts by providing a pathway to education and career opportunities for underserved communities in the area. The company welcomes the next class of apprentices and interns this fall.
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