Apprenticeship Group Photo
The first joint cohort of Savannah River Site production operator apprentices at Aiken Technical College.

Over 100 apprentices across three Savannah River Site contractors

AIKEN, S.C. – The first joint cohort of Savannah River Site (SRS) production operator apprentices recently graduated from Aiken Technical College’s Nuclear Fundamentals Program, marking the first time three SRS contractors jointly participated in the program.

The Production Operator Apprentice Program started as a partnership with SRS managing and operating contractor Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS), Aiken Technical College, Apprenticeship Carolina, and the Lower Savannah Council of Governments. In the eight-month program, students spend two days a week in the classroom and two days a week performing on-the-job training at SRS. At the end of the program, participants earn a certificate in nuclear fundamentals.

“The apprenticeship program is a great model showing the impact of linking education and industry,” said Aiken Technical College President Forest E. Mahan. “Participants can earn a college credential, receive on-the-job training, network and be mentored throughout the program. It is a formula that prepares our students for success and continued career advancement for years to come.”

For this round of operator apprentices, SRNS joined with Savannah River Mission Completion (SRMC), the liquid waste contractor at SRS, and EM’s Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) to offer over 100 openings for the program. Battelle Savannah River Alliance is the managing and operating contractor for SRNL.

The apprentices learned the basic qualifications of a production operator, including conduct of operations principles, radiation worker training and qualification, and how to perform shift rounds. Those who successfully completed the program were hired and put to work in areas across SRS.

A ceremony was held last month to honor the more than 100 program graduates. Representatives of Aiken Tech College and each of the three SRS contractors involved gave opening remarks. Special guest speakers included DOE-Savannah River Deputy Manager Edwin DeShong and South Carolina Rep. Bart Blackwell, along with three program graduates.

SRNS Production Operator Apprentice Terrence Tillman was one of the three students who spoke at the ceremony.

“This is going to change my lifestyle. I will have more time to do things with my family,” he said. “Knowing what the job entails and what its purpose is, I feel like I'm helping the country and the community.”

SRMC received the largest class of operators in its history with 51 new hires set to fill key roles in various SRS liquid waste facilities. Forty-six of the graduates will go to work for SRNS and five were hired by SRNL.

“We are thrilled to have our newly trained class of operators, the largest in our recent hiring history, join Savannah River Mission Completion full time,” SRMC President and Program Manager Dave Olson said. “Production operators play a key role in the safe and efficient operations of our nuclear facilities and will be a tremendous asset as we continue our mission to safely reduce the risk to the community and the environment of radioactive liquid waste stored at SRS.”

SRNS is also welcoming its largest production operator apprentice cohort to date.

“At this moment, the eyes of the country truly are on the Savannah River Site as we continue to execute our vital national security and cleanup missions,” said SRNS President and CEO Dennis Carr. “Outside of the contributions that our apprentices will inevitably make in making the world safer, they can be also proud of the large impact their work at SRS will have in the community.”

Booboo Roberts, SRNS program manager for apprenticeship and pipeline training, noted that SRNS currently has 22 apprenticeship programs.

“It’s an honor to be a part of helping our company prepare for the future and to help our students reach a better quality of life,” Roberts said.

-Contributor: Lindsey MonBarren