Office of Environmental Management

Small Businesses Take Part in Oak Ridge Diversity Summit

August 27, 2019

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UCOR President and CEO Ken Rueter speaks about the importance of a diverse workforce to successfully accomplish Oak Ridge’s cleanup at the Small Business Diversity Summit.
UCOR President and CEO Ken Rueter speaks about the importance of a diverse workforce to successfully accomplish Oak Ridge’s cleanup at the Small Business Diversity Summit.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.Oak Ridge environmental cleanup contractor UCOR brought together leaders from three global companies this month in an inaugural event to help area small businesses create more diverse, inclusive workforces.

“We are focused on developing a pipeline of workers for environmental cleanup work today and in the future,” UCOR President and CEO Ken Rueter said. “Workforces need to have diversity in race, culture, and gender, as well as in skills, ideas, and approaches to problem-solving. What better way to bolster diversity in our industry than by having this type of forum and engaging our small business partners.”

The local Pellissippi State Community College hosted the Small Business Diversity Summit. The event was part of a broader regional workforce development initiative that supports the Oak Ridge workforce as it moves toward safely and successfully completing cleanup at the East Tennessee Technology Park and ramps up major projects at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y-12 National Security Complex.

Moderator Renee Kesler, left, speaks to Pat Harris, retired chief global diversity officer for McDonald’s Corp., during the Small Business Diversity Summit.
Moderator Renee Kesler, left, speaks to Pat Harris, retired chief global diversity officer for McDonald’s Corp., during the Small Business Diversity Summit.
Cheryl Cabbil, senior vice president of operations at AECOM, speaks to participants of the Small Business Diversity Summit.
Cheryl Cabbil, senior vice president of operations at AECOM, speaks to participants of the Small Business Diversity Summit.

Among the summit’s speakers was Pat Harris, retired chief global diversity officer for McDonald’s Corp., who shared her experiences leading an effort to transform McDonald’s diversity and inclusion program.

“The key is to help people bring together the strengths of their diverse backgrounds and communicate their ideas clearly to each other, which forges a stronger, more creative, and more inclusive workplace,” Harris said.

Cheryl Cabbil, senior vice president of operations at engineering firm AECOM, discussed microaggressions, which she described as comments or actions that often reflect both conscious and unconscious bias. She shared her personal experiences dealing with those situations and teaching people how to handle them.

Leaders from Accenture, a professional services company, spoke about increasing employee engagement and creating a safe space for workers to share concerns and ideas.

UCOR continues to build a partnership with Pellissippi State Community College. The company donated $100,000 toward construction of a new math and science building at the college.

In another partnership, UCOR helped establish the nation’s first nuclear decommissioning minor at the University of Tennessee and supported the development of an associate’s degree in chemical engineering at Roane State Community College in Tennessee.

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