Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC recently celebrated the graduation of 14 new journey workers from the Y‑12 Apprentice Program. The seven electricians, three pipefitters, three stationary engineers and one carpenter recognized in mid‑April marked a total of 71 graduates since the program was reinstated in 2008.
The Apprentice Program, which is registered with the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is a unique partnership between CNS and the Atomic Trades and Labor Council, an umbrella organization representing some 1,100 Y‑12 workers under 13 international unions. Its combination of classroom and shop-floor education trains workers to union specifications for journey worker status.
“The certificate you are about to receive is something to be proud of,” ACR Chief Steward Tim Milligan told the graduates. “This is a great accomplishment for you, CNS and our union.”
Depending on their trade, apprentices complete between 6,400 and 8,000 hours of full-time on-the-job learning. In addition, apprentices spend between 575 and 1,250 hours in the classroom, often giving up their evenings to learn from certified union instructors.
“I came into the program with very little experience in the electrical field, but graduated feeling confident in my skills as an electrician,” said graduate Matthew Hensley, who became the third member of his family to graduate from the Y‑12 Apprentice Program as an electrician. His mother and uncle completed an earlier iteration of the program in the 1980s.
Despite the lengthy process and extensive hours, Hensley wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again. “It is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life and give me opportunities that I never would have had before,” said Hensley, who is now assigned as a maintenance electrician to Development’s buildings.
For all its benefits to each individual participant, the Apprentice Program also provides Y‑12 with a pipeline of skilled workers to support the site’s important national security missions.
“This program has positioned Y‑12 for the long term at a time when skilled craft workers are in high demand,” Milligan said. “It’s a great way to transfer knowledge from highly skilled workers to the new workforce, guaranteeing we’ll be able to meet our future production goals.”
The 2016 graduation included the first‑ever class of stationary engineers, better known at Y‑12 as utility operators. They operate all the sanitary water, sewer, cooling and heating systems throughout the site, including humidity and air control in mission-critical production facilities.
Retired chief steward Kevin Ringley, who helped initiate the stationary engineer program in 2011, attended the April ceremony to see the first class graduate. “I had a great sense of accomplishment for them,” Ringley said. “They were the very first stationary class to graduate at Y‑12. That’s monumental.”
Whatever the graduates’ trade, ATLC president Mike Thompson reminded them of the value — and weight — of their achievement. “The responsibility you face couldn’t be more important,” he said. “You are the ones who will take our place and carry on the proud tradition of being some of the most skilled tradesmen in the world, providing the expertise to perform the complex mission work here at Y‑12.”
ATLC president Mike Thompson welcomes Y-12’s newest journey workers.