OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – Creating diverse, inclusive workplaces offers many benefits, but achieving that goal can be challenging.
To help small businesses in the Oak Ridge region with that effort, EM Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management contractor UCOR teamed with Roane State Community College to host the virtual Small Business Diversity Summit on April 28.
During the summit, which UCOR and Roane State offered free to all registrants, representatives from the federal and local governments, private industry, and academia provided useful tools and techniques to support diverse, inclusive workplaces.
The event featured keynote speaker Nicole Nelson-Jean, EM Associate Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Field Operations, who noted that 50% of EM employees at Oak Ridge will be eligible for retirement in the next five years. She emphasized the importance of attracting and developing trained, qualified workers and managers to help address environmental challenges, transform sites, and create new economic opportunities.
“To continue accomplishing this important work, we need a diverse pipeline of talent that can not only achieve our mission but bring new, innovative approaches to the ways in which we do our work,” Nelson-Jean said. “It is crucial that as we are establishing this pipeline, we ensure diverse perspectives, talents, ethic and racial backgrounds, and genders are represented.”
It was the second Small Business Diversity Summit UCOR has hosted. Small businesses participating in the program receive free access to valuable training, including insight from experienced professionals, which can improve their workplaces and communities. The cost of the training can be an obstacle for businesses with limited resources.
“We understand the value in having a workforce that is diverse in race, culture, and gender, as well as in skills, ideas, and approaches to problem-solving,” UCOR President and CEO Ken Rueter said. “What better way to bolster diversity in our industry than by having a forum like this one and engaging our small business partners, who are critical to our success.”
At the summit, a panel of local experts discussed their best practices in diversity and inclusion. Panel members included Harry Boston, president, Boston Government Services; Claudia Caballero, president and CEO, Centro Hispano de East Tennessee; Mae Mosley, director of human resources, Oak Ridge Associated Universities, Charles Malarkey, director of administrative services, UCOR; and Darris Upton, diversity development manager, Knox County Mayor’s Office.
The panel shared success stories while discussing a range of topics, including how to develop and successfully implement a diversity and inclusion plan; how to get company-wide support for diversity and inclusion initiatives; and creative ways to source candidates from underrepresented communities.
The event concluded with a session providing practical tips for the workplace from Don Truza, a certified career coach with The Transition Team, Inc.
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