UCOR chemical operator apprentices sit in front of computer screens with man pointing at screen.
UCOR chemical operator apprentices Haley Glandon and Alyssa Pierce, both seated, work at the Liquid and Gaseous Waste Operations at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) cleanup contractor UCOR has boosted its ability to recruit chemical operators through a recent partnership with Roane State Community College.

UCOR partnered with the local college in the joint Chemical Engineering Technology Program, which prepares students for careers as chemical operators. Since the program started in 2020, UCOR has hired 13 graduates who are supporting nuclear operations cleanup projects at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

“We’re a strong advocate for this program because we rely on an ample supply of well-trained chemical operators for successful completion of the cleanup mission,” said Mike Sensibaugh, operations manager for UCOR’s ORNL nuclear operations group.

He says students gain requisite knowledge through their Roane State courses and on-the-job training. Students work part time during the school year and accept full-time jobs upon graduation. They become fully qualified after graduation and completion of UCOR final training exams.

Roane State Community College President Chris Whaley noted UCOR’s commitment to the partnership and the impact the company has on students.

“Few companies in Roane State’s 10-county service area have actively supported student success and workforce development in the many ways that UCOR has,” Whaley said. “Their team is truly making a difference in the lives of our students, while they are in school and in career opportunities after graduation.”

Four men with two holding award certificates.

The Tennessee Board of Regents recently recognized the UCOR and Roane State Community College (RSCC) partnership with its 2023 Statewide Outstanding Achievement Recognition Partnership Award. The award honors organizations that have demonstrated a new and innovative approach of working across sectors to solve a regional or local challenge. From left: Chris Whaley, RSCC president; Len Morgan, UCOR labor relations manager; Charlie Malarkey, UCOR administrative services manager; and Russ Deaton, Tennessee Board of Regents.

The chemical operator program is one of several collaborations UCOR has established with Roane State. UCOR also expanded its partnership with Roane State to include a new apprenticeship effort with the college’s Environmental Health Technology Program. Jump-started with a donation for new equipment for the school’s lab facilities, the initiative features guest lectures and introduces students to the latest radiation simulation technology.

UCOR’s radiological protection training team and others with the company host students to give them real world experience without hazardous exposure and provide information about employment opportunities.

“Learning in a more hands-on way, rather than in the classroom, really benefits us,” Roane State student Regan Guillement said during a recent visit to UCOR’s training facilities. “It allows us to learn better and get more involved."

The radiological training laboratory instruments simulate actual radiation meters but use radio frequency to simulate the radiation. Students get a chance to interact with staff members to help them navigate the industry. Trainers also use hands-on instructing so students are engaged and receive increased understanding of the tools they will use in their trade.

-Contributors: Michael Butler, Wayne McKinney