Recruiting diverse talent: partnering with HBCUs

  • Posted: Monday, May 20, 2024, 2:59 pm

Recruiting diverse talent: partnering with HBCUs

Y-12 has been recruiting from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and minority-serving institutions (MSIs) since the 1970s.

“The reason I’m in Oak Ridge is because I was recruited by Union Carbide 52 years ago,” said Edwena C., senior manager of Documents and Records Management. “When I arrived, there were students from HBCUs working for Union Carbide at all three sites [Y-12, Oak Ridge National Lab, and K-25].”

Edwena, a South Carolina State University (SCSU) graduate, continued, stating, “The company trained a number of us to be recruiters so they would have a pipeline of students from HBCUs. In the late 1970s, we had 50-to-60 SCSU graduates working at the sites.”

Mentoring HBCU graduates is also important, according to her. “Many of these students are first generation graduates without the background and support they need. Supporting them in becoming successful is quite rewarding.”

Continuing the legacy

Decades later, recruiting at HBCUs and MSIs is still bearing fruit. Sanchez H., lead assessor for Performance Excellence, was recruited by BWXT when he was in his fourth year at Tennessee State University (TSU). Sanchez had not completed an internship, but a former member of the BWXT Work for Others organization who had an on-site office at TSU, suggested that he apply.

“Other than wishing Y-12 was located in Nashville,” he joked, “I don’t have many regrets.”

Sanchez got into recruiting while waiting for his clearance, and he still works to support students from HBCUs. As chair of NOBLE (Network of Black Leaders for Excellence), he said the organization has four goals: recruit, retain, develop, and promote Black employees. “It takes everyone to bridge that gap and get us to where we need to be,” he stated.

Y-12 Recruiting and Placement Director Amanda H. emphasizes the importance and value of diversity recruiting. CNS recruiters attend HBCU and MSI recruiting job fairs each year to attract talent. However, CNS recruiting goes beyond job fair attendance. CNS also develops educational partnerships with HBCUs and MSIs to create future talent pipelines.

“One of the best ways to reach talent is to communicate with them where they spend the most time, which is why CNS uses geo-fenced targeted job ads that are designed to display on mobile devices at various HBCU/MSI schools––and even particular buildings––as students go about their day,” she said.

Recruiting and Placement also works with the Nuclear Security Enterprise to recruit from diverse populations. Recently, CNS Educational Partner Recruiter Nick F. and Mission Engineering Hiring Manager Kevin S. joined other NNSA labs, plants, and sites at the National Nuclear Enterprise’s Low Country recruiting event at Claflin University. This event was a joint effort to reach HBCUs and MSIs in South Carolina’s low country.

Partnering with HBCUs

Y-12 and the managing and operating contractors over the years have done much more than just recruit from HBCUs—they have supported them. Y-12 was the first DOE site to have a mentor-protégé agreement with an HBCU.

Supporting SCSU

Edwena C. chairs the Industrial Advisory Council at SCSU, and Chris R., Global Security and Strategic Partnerships, is a member of the council as well.

Chris R. noted that SCSU started out with engineering technology programs. Some of those have now been converted to ABET-accredited engineering programs, including the nuclear engineering program with which he works.

“We actually have a radiation detector on-site at SCSU,” he said. “It helps them understand the machine and its sensitivities as well as what it is like to work in a radioactive environment.”

Chris R. added, “The departments are very hands-on, and the students we’ve had here as co-ops and new hires have all been very impressive.”

Advantages of recruiting from HBCUs

Recruiting at HBCUs is also advantageous for the company and the site. “When you recruit from HBCUs, you gain diversity,” stated Edwena C. “And when you look at where the HBCUs are located in the south—Georgia, North and South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi—they all touch Tennessee. We have an opportunity to reach so many HBCUs.”

Sanchez H. agreed, saying, “HBCUs provide a pipeline of diverse people and perspectives who enhance learning organizations. HBCUs also tend to produce resilient employees who are more capable of handling adversity and performing in non-ideal situations.”

He also noted that while HBCUs make up only 3% of colleges and universities, they produce 20% of all Black graduates. He stated, “Promoting and recruiting from HBCUs is essential to creating equity in America.”

“It is great to work for a company that values diversity recruiting but also to work as part of an enterprise that holds the same value,” Amanda H. agreed.

If you want to learn more about CNS recruiting efforts, contact Amanda H. at