AIKEN, S.C. – After a one-year pilot, the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management (EM) is growing a program at the Savannah River Site (SRS) that simplifies the process of transitioning interns into new hires.
Many science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students have jump-started their careers at SRS through summer internships. To retain interns who are good matches for the liquid waste program, the Technical Student Program (TSP) was created in 2021.
The pilot year of the TSP proved successful when three of four students were hired by Savannah River Mission Completion (SRMC), the liquid waste contractor at SRS. The fourth student declined to continue their education. Now, SRMC is continuing the program, allowing eight more students the opportunity to go from interns to full-time employees after graduating.
The TSP allows select students to stay employed with SRMC after their summer internships end. As students finish school, they remain part-time employees of SRMC, reducing the time it takes to become SRMC-qualified engineers when they are hired full time.
The program is mutually beneficial for students and for SRMC, according to Paul Cundey, a Saltstone Disposal Unit design authority engineer and program manager of the TSP initiative.
“The combination of the internship program at SRMC with the TSP is beneficial to both students and the departments they are assisting,” Cundey said. “Initiatives like the Technical Student Program speak to the SRMC’s core value of continuous improvement.”
Caroline Wilson, a senior engineering major at Clemson University in South Carolina and current TSP participant, said she is thankful for the opportunity to continue gaining work experience while in school.
“This program is a great way to simultaneously continue my education while getting hands-on work experience,” Wilson said. “Most students don’t have the opportunity to learn from engineers who have been in this field for a long time. I’m thankful to be a part of the Technical Student Program.”
The TSP is a good step to encourage STEM majors to pursue careers at SRS, according to SRMC President and Program Manager Dave Olson.
“After the first year’s success, it was clear that this program could continue to be successful,” Olson said. “At SRS, we need to open as many doors as we can to bring in the best and brightest employees to meet our missions’ requirements.”
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