Participants attending Diversity Panel

University of Tennessee (UT) Nuclear Engineering Department Head Wes Hines, right, introduces members of the “Engineering Day Diversity Panel” to UT students. From left are Harold Conner, a longtime leader in the EM complex, Dari Gabriel, a UCOR environmental scientist, and Jasmine Toy, a UT senior. They talked about overcoming challenges and visualizing a path to a successful engineering career.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) cleanup contractor UCOR is expanding initiatives to build its future workforce while maintaining cleanup and reindustrialization efforts at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Oak Ridge Reservation.

“As we compete for talent, UCOR is expanding our existing partnerships and creating new efforts to recruit students and other job seekers,” said UCOR Chief of Staff Sam Dolynchuk, who leads the company’s workforce development strategies.

That includes continuing apprenticeship programs with labor unions and local community colleges and expanding university partnerships, which resulted in doubling the number of participants in UCOR’s summer intern program this year.

UCOR employees recently participated in “Engineering Day” at the University of Tennessee (UT) in Knoxville. Students from 70 regional high schools attended the 110th annual event that provides future engineering students an opportunity to hear from UT students and faculty, learn about engineering careers and participate in STEM-related competitions. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

The contractor’s employees also joined the UT Department of Nuclear Engineering’s inaugural “Engineering Day Diversity Panel” last month. Dari Gabriel, an environmental scientist with UCOR, and Harold Conner, a longtime leader in the DOE Office of Environmental Management (EM) complex, served on the panel alongside UT student Jasmine Toy. They discussed how to overcome challenges and visualize a path to a successful engineering career.

Click here to watch our Spotlight Video on Environmental Scientist Dari Gabriel

Harold Conner, a longtime leader in the EM complex, discusses engineering careers with high school students at the University of Tennessee’s recent “Engineering Day.” Students from 70 high schools in the region attended the event.
Harold Conner, a longtime leader in the EM complex, discusses engineering careers with high school students at the University of Tennessee’s recent “Engineering Day.” Students from 70 high schools in the region attended the event.

Representatives with the cleanup contractor recently hosted approximately 30 students and faculty members from UT’s nuclear, civil and environmental engineering departments as part of an ongoing partnership with the school. Students learned about OREM’s cleanup and internship and post-graduate career opportunities.

UCOR and its employees support the nation’s first nuclear decommissioning and environmental management minor degree program at UT. The company also sponsors senior design projects, provides scholarships and helps with a nuclear engineering colloquium series at UT.

“This partnership began to flourish as we saw how UCOR’s East Tennessee Technology Park cleanup success is attracting companies that are jump-starting the commercial nuclear industry here at Oak Ridge,” UT Nuclear Engineering Department Head Wes Hines said. “UCOR has provided presentations, tours and internships that have started a true ‘feedback loop.’”

Hines added: "Students are gaining valuable experience, and they’re sharing with fellow students and our faculty. They see these as great careers.”

Representatives from EM, Tennessee State University (TSU), Fisk University, Meharry Medical College and UCOR are shown during a recent tour of TSU’s College of Agriculture Building.
Representatives from EM, Tennessee State University (TSU), Fisk University, Meharry Medical College and UCOR are shown during a recent tour of TSU’s College of Agriculture Building.

Last month, UCOR accompanied Nicole Nelson-Jean, EM associate principal deputy assistant secretary for field operations, on a tour of Tennessee State University (TSU) in Nashville, Tennessee. They visited the campus with Fisk University and Meharry Medical College leadership.

Also in November, DOE announced $30 million in financial assistance grants to Minority Serving Institutions in South Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington, including a $5 million grant to TSU, Fisk University and Meharry Medical College to expand collaboration on DOE-related careers in environmental science, student projects on soil, water and conservation research, and other initiatives.