1987 Federal Junior Fellowship Program class
The DOE Federal Junior Fellowship Program student class in 1987 included (left to right) Vince Aranda, Pamela Arias, Anh Nguyen, Sharlea McMurtry and Jeff Shoulta.
Anh Nguyen, Pamela Arias-Ortega, and Jeff Shoulta
Anh Nguyen, Pamela Arias-Ortega, and Jeff Shoulta reunite on the steps of the Albuquerque Operations Office to celebrate 35 years of service.

The Department of Energy (DOE) and NNSA have long recognized the value that student interns and early in career employees bring to its talented staff.

This summer marks the 35th anniversary of one of the first DOE leadership development programs aimed at recruiting, engaging, developing, and advancing a diverse workforce.

In 1987, the DOE Federal Junior Fellowship Program was established to provide internships to high school graduates working at the DOE Albuquerque Operations Office. Nearly four decades later, half of the inaugural class are not only still employed by the DOE/NNSA but have highly successful careers in leadership positions.

Pamela Arias-Ortega, Deputy General Counsel for General Law and Litigation, Office of the General Counsel; Anh Nguyen, Contracts Attorney in the Assistant Deputy Administrator for Secure Transportation Office; and Jeff Shoulta, Manager of the Kansas City Field Office were among the first six participants of the program. Starting at ages 17 and 18, they worked summers and winter breaks throughout college to get a taste of their future careers in their chosen fields.

“When I was hired for the Federal Junior Fellowship Program, I was just looking for a summer job during college,” said Shoulta. “However, I quickly developed a deep appreciation for the mission and its importance to our nation.”

Since that first program, the DOE and NNSA have continuously expanded its leadership development programs to include unique and inclusive opportunities for current students and recent graduates. Current programs such as the Pathways Program and the Minority Serving Institutions Partnership Program strengthen a participant’s capacity to lead by deepening their understanding of key leadership characteristics and values needed to further NNSA’s national security mission.

These programs also provide an opportunity for students to explore different career paths and find their inspiration.

“Because the Program exposed me to different aspects of the nature of the work at DOE/NNSA, I developed more confidence and learned how to be better organized and became more productive,” said Nguyen. “In the end, the Program provided me the skills to become a problem solver.”     

“One great thing about working for DOE or any federal agency is that we have a wide variety of occupations and even mission assignments,” Shoulta added. “If inspiration changes over time, you can alter your career for new opportunities without having to change employers.”

The success of past recruiting and development programs has provided a solid foundation for future students interested in pursuing a rewarding career in national security. With more than a third of the nuclear security enterprise’s workforce eligible for retirement within the next five years, attracting and recruiting top talent will remain a high priority for NNSA for years to come.

“My advice for early-in-career employees is to speak with as many seasoned managers as possible to learn about different areas and opportunities,” Arias-Ortega said. “There are a wide variety of career paths within NNSA and the best way to find out about these occupational fields is to speak with a variety of folks in different organizations. My advice for someone considering joining NNSA is to simply apply for a position—you won’t regret it.”