Career ONE steers engineering grads toward right path
Y‑12 Career ONE Manager Kody C. (far right) with the latest class, which boasts 19 recent engineering graduates.
Consumers may test drive a few cars before they find the right one. At Pantex and Y‑12, Career ONE participants take a similar approach to find the right job.
Debuting in 2011, Career ONE (Opportunities for New Engineers) allows recent college graduates to participate in a job‑rotation program during their first two years at the sites. The newcomers work in different engineering disciplines in 4‑ to 6‑month increments and gain insights into each field so they can better determine which career path is the best fit.
“I found this middle ground between a job and an internship,” said former Y‑12 Career ONE participant Erika R. “It is the perfect program.”
Workshops and training sessions further expand their knowledge and technical skills. In addition, they have access to state‑of‑the‑art equipment and processes. Participants complete up to four rotations, which last a year at Pantex and between a year and 18 months at Y‑12.
“It’s an opportunity to get a broader sense of what’s going on in the company and an opportunity to learn more,” said Pantex Career ONE Manager Steve C. “Helps them hit the ground running.”
Y‑12 Career ONE Manager Kody C. added, “It’s a great program. These engineers are able to gain exposure to our mission and build technical experience. The managers have said how impressed they are with this organization and commented on how enthusiastic Career ONE classes have been.”
Participants, many introduced to Career ONE at job fairs, hail from schools such as the University of Tennessee, Tennessee Tech University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Texas Tech University.
The past two classes are part of a growth spurt for Y‑12 Career ONE. The FY 2021 and 2022 groups boasted 14 and 15 members, respectively. The FY 2023 class had 19. At Pantex, the classes are smaller, with usually eight engineers entering the program each year. The program is in its fifth year there.
“We have plans to grow it,” Steve said. “In the next four to five years, would we would like to see it increase to about 15 people.”
As established groups finish their rotations, new grads come onboard, fostering a mentoring environment.
“Former Career ONE participants are the coaches for the current Career ONE class,” Kody said. “They help them get connected from a networking perspective.”
Although creating those connections is key to success at the sites, the opportunity to work in various areas of engineering is invaluable.
“For this generation that comes out of college, it’s all about choices,” Steve said. “They thrive on that.”
Among this generation is Claire F., who recently completed her final rotation at Y‑12.
“This is my first job out of college,” she said. “Career ONE helped me to see my strengths and weaknesses and to see what parts of engineering I enjoy. I was worried coming into a new job and not liking it, but with this, I got a chance to try a few jobs. I really like my current position in Process Engineering, but I also enjoyed my time in Design. It’s been great to see all of the different sides. It gave me some really good options.”
The options also allow an easier entry into a new and sometimes daunting job world.
“Going in blind (to a single job) would have been intimidating,” said former Y‑12 Career ONE participant Adam .., who was deployed to Process Engineering. “This way, I got a chance to see what I liked and didn’t like.”
Also recently deployed to Y‑12 Process Engineering is Michael H.
“This program has been fantastic,” he said. “It was perfect for my personality type. I’m always thinking, would I be better somewhere else or would I be happier somewhere else? Thankfully, I enjoy this job so much. It’s like a birds‑eye view of what’s going on here, like being backstage, which is perfect, because I’m always craving knowledge.”
For former Pantex Career ONE participant Austin F., “I came in not knowing what exactly I wanted to do. All I knew is that I wanted to be an electrical engineer. CareerOne allowed me the ability to shift around and choose a group that was the best for me. He works in the Projects Electrical Design group at Pantex.
There’s a good chance Austin and other Career ONE employees will remain at Pantex and Y‑12 for years to come, which is good news. Both sites have been focused on attrition rates.
“Because of the positive experience they have in the program, they tend to stay at Y‑12 for a while,” Kody said. “We set them up for success with all the access to the site.”
Steve has seen strong retention at Pantex as well, with Career ONE graduates on average working at the site for several years after program completion.
“It takes a few years to get acclimated and to contribute fully,” Adam said. “I could easily see myself being here five‑plus years.”
Austin said, “The chances of me staying at Pantex are high, I would say, as long as I’m putting out quality work. I’m in a good group and I love the people here.”