Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) not only are critical to EM achieving its cleanup mission effectively, but they’re also the keys to the future EM workforce, according to Kristen Ellis, EM’s senior advisor for STEM and talent acquisition.

Ellis, who is also the acting director for regulatory, intergovernmental, and stakeholder engagement, made the comments via video at the recent 2021 RadWaste Summit.

She emphasized the innovation driving all areas of DOE, but particularly in EM’s work. STEM careers are already critical to EM and will continue driving the cleanup mission.

“In fact, nearly 40 percent of the DOE federal workforce are in STEM positions, and over 70 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher. These figures will only increase as the Department continues to address national security, energy, and environmental and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions,” Ellis said.

Kristen Ellis, EM senior advisor for STEM and talent acquisition, and acting director for regulatory, intergovernmental, and stakeholder engagement.
Kristen Ellis, EM senior advisor for STEM and talent acquisition, and acting director for regulatory, intergovernmental, and stakeholder engagement.

EM and its contractors will serve as an incubator for future innovation and employees, she said. The key is starting with the youngest of EM’s potential future workers, including elementary school students.

“This builds on investing in community-based STEM education to opening up early career opportunities all the way through providing continuous learning for educators and for today’s workforce,” Ellis said.

She pointed out that annually, the national laboratories provide programs for more than 250,000 kindergarten-through-12th grade students, 22,000 kindergarten-through-12th grade educators, nearly 3,000 undergraduate interns, over 2,000 graduate students, and 2,300 postdoctoral researchers. Additionally, many events are sponsored by EM, including science bowls, STEM nights, and high school job shadowing opportunities.

Ellis concluded by looking at what the future workforce might look like and signaling bedrock EM principles as the future workforce is explored.

“The health and safety of our workers, along with their families and communities, is paramount. Second, we must be effective in carrying out and completing our mission. It’s not optional, because it’s integral to the health, safety, and security of our nation. Third, we want to explore and build on the flexibility of the past year and a half to promote a more dynamic and agile workforce,” she said.

Ellis added, “The need for the best and brightest leaders in the field at our sites, in our labs, in our classrooms, and in our boardrooms is growing, as the workforce ages and we shift to an innovation-based economy. One of our core values is to invest in the future through inspiring and nurturing STEM learning, and we build this work and this culture into the EM program.”