Cassie Sistare, a newly hired employee and former intern of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS), evaluates a training session using a dynamic learning activity she developed during her internship. Dynamic learning activities raise employee safety awareness at EM’s Savannah River Site.
Cassie Sistare, a newly hired employee and former intern of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS), evaluates a training session using a dynamic learning activity she developed during her internship.

AIKEN, S.C. – Reclassifying dozens of year-round interns as apprentices at Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) has benefited both the students and the management and operations contractor at the Savannah River Site (SRS).

“This is important, since they can receive a certification at the end of their apprenticeships once they are registered into one of our 13 Department of Labor- (DOL) approved apprenticeship profiles,” said Rainer Neely, who manages the SRNS intern program. “It’s a significant advantage over our largely experienced-based summer interns, who still play a very important role within our company.”

Currently, seven types of SRNS apprenticeships are available, including facility/production operators, software engineers, records management clerks, process software engineers, systems engineers, computer systems support technicians, and maintenance mechanics.

Other types of apprenticeships will soon include electrical and instrumentation mechanics, project controls personnel, fire protection engineers, radiological control inspectors, supply chain management resource employees, and associate chemical management center analysts.

Neely explained that SRNS’ multi-mission contract with DOE provides opportunities for a range of occupations.

“We’re working within our missions to accomplish, if not exceed, goals in areas such as safety, security, nuclear operations, environmental cleanup, and the nonproliferation of nuclear materials,” said Neely. “How better to fill these needs than with a year-round intern who is now an apprentice? It’s someone who has proven they can handle the responsibilities of a currently open, full-time position in an area where they have related experience and displayed an aptitude to excel.”

The SRNS management team recognizes the long-term value of apprenticeships and the job pipeline they create for the site.

“Without a doubt, registered apprentice programs are the wave of the future here at SRS and throughout South Carolina,” Neely said. “We’re confident this change in policy will lead to an even stronger workforce ready to take on the challenges of the future at SRS.”

SRNS will continue to conduct traditional summer internships. This summer, the company is host to 120 interns who fill 37 different types of jobs and support 97 managers.

“Summer interns enjoy a wide range of potential careers to test drive. Many will find a vocation they had not previously considered; others might pivot to another dream job. At the least, each will experience life at SRS and get a glimpse of work within a U.S. industrial complex,” Neely said.

Neely noted that it’s not unusual for SRNS to extend job offers to temporary employees, occasionally before their internships are complete.

“We now know their skillset, potential for growth, and work ethic,” he said. “And they know our expectations and the advantages of working for SRNS.”

A graduate of Augusta University, Cassie Sistare completed her second SRNS internship in December 2020. She learned about human performance improvement (HPI) principles, which provide a systematic approach to improving individual and organizational performance with an emphasis on enhancing safety.

“All through college, I did not know what career field to pursue. I just knew I wanted to help people. That’s my personality and passion,” said Sistare. “And now I’m able to do that with HPI. During my time at SRNS as an intern, I’ve come to greatly value the importance of safety, and I want to instill that same value in others. My internship was a blessing and has had such an enormous impact on my life.”

The SRNS organization that hired Sistare as an intern recently offered her a full-time position, which she accepted.

“Our internship program is excellent,” SRNS Conduct of Operations Program Manager Daryl Smoldt said. “Cassie performed at a very high level as an intern last summer and continues to impress us now as a full-service employee. We hope she enjoys a long and rewarding career with our company.”

Neely hopes each SRNS intern and apprentice has the best possible experience.

“We want them to thoroughly enjoy the process of finding a career that meets their needs,” he said. “And, we hope, when all is said and done, they will consider joining our family at the Savannah River Site.”