Engineer Joe Cort, right, reviews documents with intern Shari Reese. Cort is one of 14 engineers who began their Hanford careers in the internship program with contractor Hanford Mission Integration Solutions and transitioned to full-time employment after graduation. This photo was taken prior to COVID-19 safety protocols.
Engineer Joe Cort, right, reviews documents with intern Shari Reese.

RICHLAND, Wash. – A Hanford Site internship program has led to hiring more than two dozen interns as engineers over the past eight years, identifying capable students for long-term careers dedicated to advancing the site’s mission.

The Hanford Mission Integration Solutions (HMIS) internship program includes a strong mentoring component, building both tangible experience and insights to inform career planning and decisions. HMIS is an EM Richland Operations Office contractor.

“The internship program is not solely focused on adding to the workforce; it’s creating a diverse pool of qualified engineers who are aware of the opportunities at Hanford and in the surrounding communities,” said Maureen Gore, HMIS cooperative student program administrator. “By mentoring the next generation of engineers with skills, resources, and knowledge, we help mold future leaders and community members.”

HMIS Engineering Director Drew Thomas, a previous intern himself, noted that about 30% of the current HMIS engineering team began working at the company through the intern program.

Norma Aguilera-Vazquez is a civil engineer with Hanford Mission Integration Solutions and began her career in the contractor’s internship program, which has a proven history of preparing interns for employment after college.
Norma Aguilera-Vazquez is a civil engineer with Hanford Mission Integration Solutions and began her career in the contractor’s internship program, which has a proven history of preparing interns for employment after college.

Current interns are working on designs for facility modifications, such as ventilation system replacements, power upgrades, wastewater removal, and configured drawing updates. Interns supporting the water utilities team are working on a design for improved pumping of holding tanks and pipelines.

“The internship program considers the intern an employee from day one, guiding them to be responsible for their own problem solving and networking,” said engineer and former intern Norma Aguilera-Vazquez. “Interns gain real-world experience through hands-on learning, collaborating on designs, and working on projects that support the cleanup mission. By the time they finish the program, they have enough firsthand experience to help shape the future of engineering at HMIS and Hanford.”

Each engineering intern is assigned a mentor, typically an engineer who graduated from the internship program and transitioned to full-time employment.

Cristal Robinson, a former three-time summer intern, has been working at Hanford for more than a decade.

“This opportunity allows you to be responsible for your own success,” said Robinson. “As interns we were encouraged to look at the work of others and question why things were done. Constantly asking questions allows growth as an individual as well as a team. I still work with the mentor assigned to me my first day.”