Source: EM Update | Vol. 13, Issue 6; Contributor: Scott Boyle | February 16, 2021
Ken Rueter, president and CEO of Oak Ridge cleanup contractor UCOR, led a virtual presentation recently to the Energy Communities Alliance (ECA) highlighting partnerships and programs that help train and attract the next-generation workforce to advance cleanup at the site.
Two UCOR employees joined Rueter to share their stories of how those partnerships and program benefited their careers. Watch a video about the virtual presentation here.
UCOR’s workforce development initiatives and partnerships with labor unions have been the backbone of EM’s environmental cleanup success on the Oak Ridge Reservation, Rueter said in the presentation to ECA, an organization of local governments adjacent to or impacted by DOE activities.
“We collaborate with national and local union leaders on initiatives to continue to ensure a pipeline of trained metal trades and craft construction personnel for cleanup work in Oak Ridge,” Rueter said. “That relationship is critical to our joint success in the region.”
UCOR laborer Cheyanna Hawn is a graduate of the East Tennessee Apprenticeship Readiness Program. She talked about how participating in UCOR’s apprenticeship program impacted her professionally and personally.
That program provides a gateway for local residents to gain access to apprenticeship programs. Classes are offered through the North America’s Building Trades Unions, which sponsors similar training nationwide.
A UCOR employee of three years, Hawn has worked on EM cleanup projects at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) and the Y-12 National Security Complex. She says her career at Oak Ridge has been positive for her and her family.
“I’m a single mom, and I didn’t have a lot of steadiness about my life,” Hawn said. “It’s been a very positive experience for me. I have two children, and they get to know that mom goes to work, and they know that I feel like I’m doing something important and helping my community.”
Hawn added, “I’m just really happy for the time I’ve spent at UCOR. It has changed my life.”
To prepare students for careers in chemical operations, UCOR also sponsors a chemical engineering technology program at the nearby Roane State Community College. Four students from the inaugural class were selected for UCOR internships and offered employment as chemical operators at the company after they concluded their internships.
Anna Summers, a native of the region, is an example of the success of that program. She started her career as an apprentice with UCOR while in college and went on to earn an associate’s degree in chemical engineering technology from Roane State Community College. After graduation, she was hired full time by UCOR as a chemical process operator to support cleanup projects at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).
“I’ve had a great experience. It made it real easy, being a college student, and then being able to start a college apprenticeship program, and then a graduate,” Summers said. “Now I have a full-time job, it’s been really great.”
The commitment by DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management and UCOR to collaborate with labor, develop the workforce, embrace diversity, and continue education has led to historic cleanup achievements at ETTP and is creating new opportunities for success associated with future cleanup at Y-12 and ORNL.