Building a village

  • Posted: Wednesday, November 25, 2020, 9:47 am
Y‑12 Mission Engineering interns share information.
Y‑12 Mission Engineering interns share information.

In a typical April, interns would be finalizing travel and living arrangements for their anticipated summer internships. But in 2020, COVID-19 created pandemonium, and many interns across the country were disappointed when many companies canceled internships. CNS Human Resources and the executive leadership team wanted to make CNS's program happen, so HR enlisted help from multiple organizations, including Safeguards, Security, and Emergency Services; Communications; Performance Excellence, and Information Solutions and Services.

Cristy Landrum, intern program lead, and Recruiting & Placement’s Amy Moran stepped into motion.

“We worked with CNS leadership to establish guidelines and processes on how to proceed with our original start date of June 1,” Landrum said. “We wanted to allow time to onboard remotely and to telework until site conditions allowed for safe work on site.”

CNS President and Chief Executive Officer Michelle Reichert said, “Interns are our future workforce. We wanted to offer them the experience they had signed up for and accepted, and our team went to work to make it happen. We knew we might not be able to offer a 100% in person internship, but we knew we had the resources, creativity, and tenacity to make it the best it could be, considering the circumstances. The result allowed students to see how CNS thinks outside the box to make the undoable doable.”

The teamwork involved with this year’s program led to success.

Landrum said, “Nothing stops the CNS team from working towards the mission. We don’t buckle under pressure, and we don’t throw in the towel when times get tough. We strive for excellence, and we work together to quickly find ways to meet our goals.”

Interns leave contributions

As Pantexans and Y-12ers for the summer, the 2020 interns made valuable contributions to the CNS mission in the Development, Engineering, Operations, Security, Supply Chain Management, and Information Solutions and Services Departments. Before they left, 19 interns were even offered an opportunity to continue their CNS careers as full-time employees.

Despite changes brought by COVID-19, CNS honored its commitment to providing educational development opportunities for the 40 students this summer as a part of the CNS Internship Program. In a modified program, the 16 interns at Pantex and 24 interns at Y-12 experienced the sites, virtually and in-person.

Pantex’s Paul Mendez and Mike Hight from Personnel Security were just two who assisted in finding the solution. The team had a quick turnaround time, because the final decision to go virtual was made less than a month before the start date.

“We had some obstacles,” Mendez said. “There was short notice for almost every aspect from processing Clearance Action Requests to identification verification. Personnel Security assisted with reviewing and processing Clearance Action Requests, and we provided the required briefing and ensured appropriate access was set up.”

Hight said, “The hardest part was the short notice to process interns, and the need to stay flexible in processing them - it took some specialized effort to determine their status and work them in with all the other onboarding actions we conduct.”

Next was making a traditional program a virtual one. Landrum said, “This was my first year as the lead over the internship program, so implementing the program was a challenge, then when you throw in COVID-19, it made it even more challenging. I knew I needed to get others on board.”

That’s when Jessica Dawes and Alex Moore came into play and helped build a knowledge library, which became a partnership with others within the Nuclear Security Enterprise.

“The NSE Internship Library was established to allow interns joining the NSE in 2020 to have content about the sites and the NNSA mission,” Moore said.

Dawes added, “The library is composed of virtual content to assist interns in developing a better understanding of roles and responsibilities of the organizations within the NNSA, as well as illustrate how integrated the organizations are in order to achieve the NNSA mission.”

Currently, the knowledge library is with NNSA Public Affairs to be published online. “The NSE workforce team, made up of employees from various NSE organizations, emailed the material to their sites’ interns,” Moran said. “We paired the material, which consisted of a lot of website links, with a planned event - the NSE Virtual Intern Panel. The event was a success with seven panelists from across the enterprise and 177 participants (interns) all learning about the work across the NSE and how they can contribute to our mission.”

Last, but not least, was determining how to share on the job training, so Landrum and Moran asked Performance Excellence’s Training Compliance & Delivery to join the effort. Within a few weeks, the team had General Employee Training ready to teach virtually through WebEx. Once required training was completed, Christine Shawhan (Six Sigma) and others from PE developed a schedule for Enrichment Series classes that the interns attended virtually.

“We offered information on how to write a business case, how to facilitate a virtual meeting, and shared various Lean Six Sigma tools,” Shawhan said. “Amy and Cristy then recommended having the CNS Affinity Groups share with the interns, so they could learn about future possibilities. Teamwork makes the dream work. Seems silly to say, but it really does!”

So at the end of the 10 week internship, the 40 interns for 2020 left with a robust amount of information from a program that wasn’t sure it would even happen.

“It really ended as a win-win project,” Moran said. “One intern told me before she left Pantex that the lessons taught in the [Enrichment Series] meetings would not have come up in a typical college education. She said she was able to learn how to be a competent professional before graduating with her degree.”

Landrum said, “Change is inevitable, but we will support the mission. You simply adapt and react. By continuing the internship program, it taught the students that turmoil doesn’t stop CNS from working towards supporting the mission.”

A Y-12 Mission Engineering intern works in a lab during his time at Y‑12.

A Y-12 Mission Engineering intern works in a lab during his time at Y‑12.