Unique program helps veterans become CNS engineers

Posted: November 15, 2016 - 10:05am

For Chris Caserta, the stress of finishing engineering school was only topped by the stress of wondering where to get a job afterward.

“Before hearing of Y-12’s CNS Veterans Program, I had planned on looking for whatever internship or co-op opportunity I could find that would help me develop professionally,” he said. “Thanks to the program, I have been able to begin my professional engineering career much earlier than I had expected.”

Caserta, who spent six years in the U.S. Army Reserve, found out about Y-12’s CNS Veterans Program from a student he was tutoring in calculus and physics at Pellissippi State Community College. That student, David Swinney, is a fellow veteran participating in Y-12’s program.

Through the program, veterans are provided with part-time employment, mentoring, support and work experience in their chosen field while pursuing their bachelor’s degree in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) discipline. Upon completion of their STEM degree, they convert to full-time employees.

After getting his associate degree from Pellissippi State, the former Army Reserve sergeant transferred to Tennessee Tech and is set to graduate in December. Caserta credits the Y-12 program with giving him skills and experience he otherwise would not have gotten until he began working, and those skills have helped him perform at his best academically.

“After only having spent a month and a half working over the winter break, I have been able to apply the technical writing skills and experience with heat transfer analysis that I learned on the job. I have been involved in a team experiment at TTU building a cooling tower and testing the effects of microfluids on the efficiency of the cycle,” he said. “My experience at Y-12 gave me the knowledge and experience so that I was elected as the team leader for the build process, experimental analysis, and technical writing of the report with a possible publication of our findings.”

One more advantage of joining Y-12’s CNS Veterans Program—Caserta won’t be walking into a job cold. “Overall, the program has given me an advantage in school and my professional career,” he said. “Not only do I have more time to focus on my studies, but I’ve also had the chance to develop professional relationships before graduating.”

There are eight veterans currently in the program at Y-12 with representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. Y-12’s sister site in Amarillo, Texas, the Pantex Plant, is on the verge of beginning its own program, which is hoped to start in early 2017. Six graduates of the Y-12 program are working at the site as nuclear, electrical, mechanical, and civil engineers.

If you’d like to know more about the Y-12’s CNS Veterans Program, contact Rhonda Gibbons at 241-7285. For information about Pantex’s CNS Veterans Program, contact Cary Langham at 574-9838.