Crafting the next generation

Posted: July 16, 2012 - 3:52pm | Y-12 Report | Volume 9, Issue 1 | 2012

I truly enjoyed the opportunity to work with such great people every day,” said Brandy Ward, an ironworker/rigger graduate of Y‑12’s Apprentice Program. “It was a lot of work, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

The Y‑12 Apprentice Program is about a lot of things, including second chances. The program that offers workers an opportunity to become highly skilled craftspeople was given a second chance just four years ago.

The program was reinstated in 2008 after a 26-year hiatus and recently celebrated its first graduation in 30 years. Beth Green, director for Resource Management, said each apprentice is trained to union specifications and meets national standards for journeyworker status upon completion of the program.

Throughout their training, which varied from three to four years, the apprentices were paired with respective craft journeyworkers who passed on their own lessons learned and specific on-the-job skills. “I truly enjoyed the opportunity to work with such great people every day,” said Brandy Ward, an ironworker/rigger graduate. “It was a lot of work, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

B&W Y‑12 Deputy General Manager and Senior Vice President Bill Klemm said, “Experience can’t be bought, and we have workers here with lots of life to share. I express my gratitude to those who taught these apprentices. The program is self-sustaining, and in 20 years these graduates will be teaching the next generation.”

The nine graduates achieved their respective requirements in the carpenter, insulator, ironworker/rigger and painter programs in a joint effort with local unions and the Atomic Trades and Labor Council. Twenty future graduates from various crafts also successfully completed the United Association Green Systems Awareness Certification Program, supporting safety, quality and economical green system installation activities.

“We’re growing our own here at Y‑12,” said John Whalen, chairman for the ATLC Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee. According to Whalen, there were approximately 2,600 interested applicants in 2008. Of those, 400 were interviewed and later narrowed down to 50 hires. Initial testing focused on math, reading, composition and computer skills.

David Orr, a painter apprentice graduate and apprentice of the year, said his wife had encouraged him to apply. “My life changed forever,” he said. “I brought my philosophy of being safe, striving to do quality work, being productive and dependable, and it has paid off. That was over three years ago, and now I’m a journeyman.”

Lance Foster, another painter apprentice graduate, said, “I knew this was an opportunity I had to pursue. I had little or no experience in the crafts listed in the ad, but what I did bring to the table was the ambition to try something new and be the best at it.”

Approximately 150 people attended the graduation ceremony, including fellow craftspeople, local union representatives and many family members and friends of the graduates.

Klemm said, “Hopefully this will be the first of a long string of graduations to ensure the future success of Y‑12.”