In an effort to better understand the changing job market, STEM teachers from across East Tennessee attended a professional development day program, sponsored by Consolidated Nuclear Security (CNS), at the Y-12 National Security Complex on June 22, 2017.
CNS Vice President and Y-12 Site Manager, Bill Tindal, briefed the group on the history and continuing mission at Y-12; and the importance of having a qualified workforce, both now and in the future. In addition to Tindal’s introduction, the group also toured Y-12’s advanced manufacturing facilities and heard from a panel of professionals on the nature of Y-12’s business and workplace culture. The speakers focused on student learning and how it directly intersects with what is required in the workplace.
The panelists included Ashley Stowe, Renee Harper, Travis Howerton, Mea Reeves, and Mike Thompson.
Harper discussed the pressures students face at an early age and the decisions they are asked to make. She encouraged the teachers to remind their students that, while these decisions are important, they are not set in stone. “These decisions don’t have to dictate the rest of your life,” she said. “You will get plenty of other opportunities to change course.”
Howerton also had some advice for the teachers. “To me, success looks a lot like hard work. Learning the value of hard work matters a lot,” he said and encouraged the teachers to instill that work ethic in their students.
“The entire day was invigorating,” said Linda Reedy, an instructor at Concord Christian School. “We were treated to a demonstration of Y-12’s 3-D manufacturing capabilities and we heard from experts about what we can do to better prepare our students for today’s workplace.”
The visit was part of a professional development opportunity by STEMspark, the East Tennessee Education hub of the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network and the nationwide STEMx Coalition.
Y-12 recently celebrated its sixth apprentice class since reinstatement of the program in 2008. This class of 13 is the first to include apprentices in the machinist classification.
It has been a long journey for the apprentices. For the nine machinists, that journey included three years of year-round classes on Fridays and evenings at Pellissippi State Community College (PSCC). The four electricians completed their training at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) training facility in Knoxville. The electricians are represented by IBEW Local Union 760, and the machinists are represented by Machinist Local Union 480.
Tim Milligan, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration chief steward, noted that the program positions Y-12 for the long term when skilled craft workers are in high demand. He said, “The apprenticeship program is our guarantee that we will be able to meet our future production goals.”
Milligan acknowledged the program’s success was a result of a partnership between Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC; the union instructors and training coordinators; the Atomic Trades and Labor Council (ATLC); PSCC administration and instructors; and Y-12’s Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee, which consists of three managers and three union representatives.
CNS President and Chief Executive Officer Morgan Smith addressed the graduates and encouraged them to pay it forward. He said, “Y-12 has an enduring mission—and you will help ensure its success. As your career progresses, use the skills you hone and develop to help prepare that next generation.”
National Nuclear Security Production Office Manager Geoff Beausoleil echoed Smith’s remarks, stating “this apprenticeship program continues to help ensure an enduring workforce dedicated to Y-12’s important national security mission.”
ATLC President Mike Thompson congratulated the new journeymen and assured them they will continue to learn and become more proficient in their skills. He also acknowledged that their success comes with a responsibility. “You are the ones who will take our place and carry on the proud tradition of being some of the most skilled tradesmen in the world,” he said.
Sarah Cruise certainly has made the most of her first two years with Consolidated Nuclear Security. She’s worked rotations in engineering design, special processing, and Development — not to mention a three-month stint at Pantex as a process engineer.
For Cruise and other new hires in Mission Engineering at Y-12, the Career Opportunities for New Engineers (Career ONE) program has been a way to explore different career paths and meet new people.
When Cruise started in the Career ONE program, she was the only female in the class, and she wanted to find “a strong female role model.” With the support of program lead Mike Ellis, Cruise reached out to Rebecca Boser, senior manager, Engineering & Science.
“We connected initially because we’re both chemical engineers with MBAs,” Cruise said. “We began meeting for lunch, and she would introduce me to other female engineers in Development and on the west end, as well as people close to my age. She was open to any questions I had.”
During her job rotations, Cruise gained perspective from her engineering colleagues on the types of work performed in different areas. When the time came to decide where she wanted to work permanently, Cruise looked to Boser for advice.
“I was glad to have found someone who had been where I am and where I may want to go,” said Cruise, who now has a permanent position in Development and a new role in Career ONE — mentoring other new hires.
Meredith Manning, who joined Y-12 a year ago, said, “Sarah has been super helpful. I met her on my first day, and she introduced me to people and showed me around. She helped me get my feet wet.” As Manning completes her final rotation, the two still keep up with each other. “Sarah continues to be a good resource if I have questions,” she said.
As Cruise and Manning’s experiences prove, Career ONE’s success lies in people helping people.
“In Career ONE, we typically match engineers who have been through the program with those just coming in,” Ellis said. “They haven’t forgotten the questions and concerns that they had as a new employee, so they can help address them, but they also have gained enough experience to be able to address more technical questions and issues that a new hire may have.”
Travis Howerton, senior director of Transformation, is representing Consolidated Nuclear Security (CNS) on the Cyber and Information Security Consortium. The group is a non-profit corporation formed last year by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the University of Tennessee (UT), along with Cisco Systems, Y-12 National Security Complex, Sword & Shield Enterprise Security, the East Tennessee Economic Council, and other private corporations, to position the region as a national leader in the development and deployment of cutting-edge cyber security technologies.
“The consortium is still in early phases,” said Howerton. “Membership is growing, and they do two big get-togethers per year. We are working at the state level now to gain grant money to expand capabilities.”
Howerton said the consortium has a variety of roles and interests, including peer networking and recruiting of cyber talent; workforce development (partnering with colleges and universities on a talent pipeline, just signing an agreement with Pellissippi State Community College); and public awareness of policy issues (currently working with UT’s Baker Center on education about cyber issues). Most of the research and development is driven by ORNL, but there are some longer-term interests based on CNS work.
“Right now, it is a chance for CNS to be seen in the community and working with others on an initiative that could solve some meaningful problems in our area and grow jobs over the mid to long term.
The Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) was the top fundraising team in Tennessee for the Polar Plunge, raising more than $14,000 for Special Olympics.
“The generosity of our colleagues at UPF is always inspiring,” said Sarah Troutman of the NextGen group, which sponsored the Polar Plunge at UPF, “but this year they outdid themselves and exceeded our highest expectations.”
Individuals collect donations to determine who will take the Polar Plunge, a leap into the University of Tennessee’s outdoor swimming pool. The UPF team total was $14,230, nearly $5,500 more than last year’s fundraising total.
The Polar Plunge raises funds for Special Olympics Tennessee, which provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
NextGen is an employee resource group focused on supporting the orientation, development, retention, and empowerment of employees as they begin and build their careers.