Embracing the NERD

Posted: July 28, 2016 - 2:59pm

Embrace the nerd. CNS’s Anita Hazelwood did, and she’s never looked back. Hazelwood, a chemical engineer at Y-12, described coming to work in Oak Ridge in 2010 as part of the New Engineer Rotational Development program or NERD. Today the program is known as Career ONE.

“The program was a great opportunity for me to learn and gain work experience,” she said with a laugh. “I’m pretty sure I was the first member of NERD.”

Hazelwood recounted her story to area science, technology, engineering and mathematics teachers who were visiting Y-12 for an in-service day. The group of about 20 teachers and administrators were welcomed to Y-12 by Deputy Site Manager Gene Sievers, who explained the mission of Y-12, the site’s importance to national security and how CNS needs talented engineers and other STEM graduates today and in the future. “The workplace is changing, and workers’ skillsets must keep pace with employers’ needs,” said Sievers.

Sievers also participated in a panel discussion along with Hazelwood, Production manager Abe Mathews, Specialty Engineering functional manager Michael Ellis and Uranium Processing Facility Deputy Project Director Valerie McCain.

Best advice for students? “Accountability,” said McCain. “Teach your students to be accountable for their actions.” Mathews agreed and added, “It’s okay to say, ‘I don’t know.’”

Ellis urged the teachers to help students “get work experience,” because it will pay off down the road.

Haley Holt, STEM Facilitator for Knox County Schools coordinated the event with CNS’s Kristin Waldschlager. Holt says STEM is about more than just teaching math and science. “We want teachers to see connections with their instruction and the job opportunities available to their students,” she said.

Holly Cross, Director of Career Technical Education for Oak Ridge Schools also attended the in-service and agreed with Holt. “We want teachers to be able to help kids see options and prepare for employment in the future,” Cross said.

Reaching out to today’s STEM-embedded professionals at Y-12 was a way for the teachers to better understand those options.