Office of Environmental Management

Oak Ridge Contractor Develops Next Generation of Cleanup Workers

July 23, 2019

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UCOR President and CEO Ken Rueter speaks at the 2019 East Tennessee Workforce Summit about his company’s approach to workforce development. Tennessee State Rep. John Ragan is at right.
UCOR President and CEO Ken Rueter speaks at the 2019 East Tennessee Workforce Summit about his company’s approach to workforce development. Tennessee State Rep. John Ragan is at right.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.EM’s cleanup contractor at the Oak Ridge Site is helping develop the next generation of workers by leading or collaborating on numerous programs to ensure future cleanup is met with a capable, safety-conscious workforce.

UCOR President and CEO discussed those efforts under way at the 1,800-employee company during an address at the 2019 East Tennessee Workforce Summit last week.

“Even though UCOR will complete major cleanup at ETTP (East Tennessee Technology Park) next year, we realize that much more cleanup will be required here in Oak Ridge and across the nation,” Rueter said. “Because of that continuing need for workers, we are committed to cultivating the next generation of cleanup workers.”

EM has created new economic development opportunities by cleaning and transferring land at ETTP. However, much more work remains to remove all of the old, hazardous infrastructure at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y-12 National Security Complex, which will enhance safety and clear the way for mission growth at these crucial research and national defense sites.

UCOR’s comprehensive workforce development approach begins in elementary schools and continues through higher education, technical training, and apprenticeships.

The company has invested more than $150,000 in local elementary, middle, and high schools to fund science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education projects in classrooms.

UCOR has invested more than $150,000 in local classrooms to support science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.
UCOR has invested more than $150,000 in local classrooms to support science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.

UCOR partnered with United Steelworkers to offer hazardous waste operations and emergency response training to high school students in the region, providing the students credentials that will help them find work in the hazardous waste cleanup industry.

At the collegiate level, UCOR collaborated with the University of Tennessee’s nuclear engineering department to offer the first nuclear decommissioning and environmental management minor degree at a university or college in the U.S. UCOR has hired several recent graduates with that minor degree. UCOR also is collaborating with Roane State Community College on a chemical operators program.

A collaborative effort with the North America's Building Trades Unions and the Cooperative Agreement of Labor and Management led to the East Tennessee Apprenticeship Readiness Program. UCOR sponsored the program’s inaugural classes, and the 48 graduates were offered employment in the Oak Ridge area, many by UCOR.

The company’s summer internship program pairs college students from across the nation with mentors. Several participants pursued careers at UCOR after completing their internships.

Within UCOR, the Rising Senior Leaders Program gives a boost to future leaders. It is UCOR’s signature 12-month development program for leaders who show great potential to rise to upper level leadership positions.

“We have had great success in our cleanup work in Oak Ridge, bringing in projects ahead of schedule and under budget, and most importantly, completing them safely,” Rueter said. “We are proud to have so many partnerships with other organizations, as well as providing our own sponsorship, to keep alive the legacy of safe, effective cleanup and environmental risk reduction at the Oak Ridge Reservation.”

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