Interns - Growing the next generation of employees

Posted: August 13, 2015 - 3:42pm

Summer is a time to embark on new adventures, and for 32 college students, the CNS Summer Internship Program is their chosen venture.

During the 10 week program from June 1 to August 6, the interns are involved in various activities designed to provide an enriching experience that broadens their exposure to the workplace. They work on projects with experts in engineering, science or business; attend professional development workshops and science lectures; and participate in networking events and social activities with mentors and peers.

Chief Human Resources Officer Diane Grooms said, “The CNS intern program plays a key role in our strategic goal of investing in people. This commitment to people begins with a dedication to investing in our employees, but it doesn’t stop there. We also have a responsibility to grow the next generation of employees — giving undergrads and graduate students the opportunity to work with the knowledgeable staff at Pantex and Y-12. There are things that interns can learn and do at CNS that they can’t do anywhere else. And for our employees, working with an intern can reinvigorate our sense of purpose. This is a place where we do big things. Interns often remind us of that.”

We have a more robust program with great participation. New program managers Rachel Winningham (Human Resources) and Ashley Stowe (Mission Engineering) saw the restart as an opportunity to enhance the program. The two took a fresh approach to how the students, managers and mentors are matched. They asked managers interested in hosting an intern to explain organizational need and work scope, including skill set and education requirements, and then provided them with the best-matched candidates.

“We tried to match the area of study, project and manager together. That way managers have more invested in the students,” Stowe said. “We’ve put more rigor into what the students will do while they’re here. They will have a cohesive project to keep them engaged for 10 weeks. This is both useful to the students and Y-12 and will yield a more valuable outcome.”

As a former Y-12 intern (2007, 2008), Winningham considered her own experience. “I wanted to mimic what was done in the past but with a more personal touch,” she said. The interns submit a weekly scope summary as part of their internship. “The summaries offer insight into what they are working on to ensure they are getting valuable and meaningful work. I try to touch base with them regularly to see how they’re doing,” she said.

In addition to working on their projects, interns participate in professional development workshops on interpersonal effectiveness, career development and presentation skills, and they attend lectures on various science topics.

Each intern also was paired with a mentor from another organization who offers a different perspective and additional insight about the company. The mentors and interns meet for lunch, and some mentors host social activities, such as a “boats and floats” picnic and a Smoky Mountains hiking trip.

Stowe said, “We want to create a program that provides a great experience for students and great opportunities for our organizations to build a pipeline of next-generation experts for CNS and the country.”

He and Winningham will expand the program to include Pantex next year. Winningham said, “Currently, the internship programs at Pantex and Y-12 operate as separate entities. Going forward, we will partner to create a unified program that aligns with CNS’s core missions.”

Anthony Acklin, Pantex Human Resources Management, said Pantex interns must have a security clearance, so recruitment begins about a year in advance. The interns are selected by December and begin the clearance application process. Currently, Pantex interns work a similar 10-week schedule in the summer.

Internship highlights

CNS interns have worked in various areas across the enterprise this summer, and soon they will return to their studies at one of these 14 colleges and universities: Alabama A&M, Alcorn State (MS), Delaware State, Fisk (TN), Georgia Tech, Maryville College (TN), Morgan State (MD), North Carolina A&T, Tennessee Tech, Texas Tech, University of Alabama, University of Tennessee, University of Virginia, and West Texas A&M.