New engineers rotate into best fit at Pantex and Y-12

  • Posted: Wednesday, January 5, 2022, 8:14 am
Career ONE class
Career ONE class

Career Opportunities for New Engineers, also known as Career ONE, is an engineering rotation and development program for Pantex and Y-12 engineers who have recently graduated.

The job rotation program gives the new employees the chance to rotate into different engineering programs at Pantex and Y-12. The rotations are available for the first two years of their career. Working in different engineering disciplines in 4- to 6-month increments allows them to gain insight into each field so they can better determine which career path is the best fit. Workshops and training sessions further expand their knowledge and technical skills. Plus, they have access to learn about unique manufacturing and processes.

Michael Ellis, Career ONE director, oversees the program. He believes that Career ONE engineers have a positive impact on the sites’ missions by bringing new perspectives and new eyes to the programs while they gain experience in the special work that takes place at the production facilities.

“This rotation program helps the newly hired engineers experience different areas within engineering. They get to learn about the job and what it means before being hired in that specific department of engineering permanently,” he said. “This year, we have 14 new engineers at Y-12 and five at Pantex. The program is not trial and error, as each of them have the opportunity to be hired full time after the rotation,” said Ellis.

Pantex started its Career ONE program with the help of Raquel Barrera-Chavez, section manager for civil, structural, and design engineers.

“Because of the value and the importance of the program, both to the engineers and the production facility, I volunteered to help Mike with Career ONE at Pantex. I know how much having a program like this would have helped me in understanding what I was walking into before I started, and it would’ve given me a better idea of what I’d be doing,” said Barrera-Chavez. “I wanted to be part of helping those after me have that option. Now I help set up the career rotations for the new hires.”

Barrera-Chavez is transitioning to a new role herself, civil, structural, and architectural manager for Projects Engineering. Steve Carter will be the new Pantex Career ONE contact.

There are several requirements to qualify as a Career ONE engineer. Julie Huff, senior director of Engineering Technical Operations at Y-12, said, “The engineers must have an accumulated GPA of 3.0 in order to be accepted into the program. Once they are hired, they are rotated in different engineering areas. A lot of times when people graduate, they are unsure of what specialty they want to do. By having the rotation program, they get to see what they enjoy, and it helps managers do a trial run to see who fits which group. This program is such a strong aspect to engineering at both sites.”

Previous Career ONE member Erika Delaney, now a weapons product engineer at Y-12, was hired in April 2018 and completed the program in 2019.

“I found out about the program when I attended the University of Tennessee’s career fair,” said Delaney. “Being a part of Career ONE was a great way to learn more about Y-12. I got to attend weekly meetings, network, make friends in my same area of interest, and I tested out different things that I might not have even considered before being a part of Career ONE.”

Once Delaney completed the program, she was able to give back by being a mentor for Career ONE. She is still an available contact to new classes.

Katie Romba, a Career ONE Class of 2020 grad and now a mechanical engineer in Y-12 Development, also learned about the program at her school. “I found out about the opportunity at the Clemson University career fair,” Romba said. “I love that this gave me the chance to see what department would be the best fit for me. It challenged me and helped me figure out how to complete projects on my own and learn how to take ownership of what I was doing.”

Romba completed the program with her husband, David, and they both remain a part of the group by attending meetings and serving as mentors for new members.