Source: EM Update | Vol. 13, Issue 37; Contributor: Shannon Potter | September 21, 2021
Oak Ridge cleanup contractor UCOR continues working with labor organizations to address a shortage of skilled workers needed to perform cleanup projects in Oak Ridge.
“The American economy has changed, and with it, its skillset has changed,” said Jimmy Hart, president of Metal Trades, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.
To address that change, UCOR has initiated numerous programs to develop the next-generation workforce. The contractor recently partnered with the Metal Trades to work with Roane State Community College to offer a chemical engineering technology program that provides students coursework and hands-on training to prepare for careers as chemical operators.
Students in the program participate in an apprenticeship with UCOR, where they work during the day before attending classes in the evening. They are typically offered full-time positions upon graduation.
Levi Trentham, a chemical operator journeyman with UCOR, benefited from the Roane State program. He now supports environmental cleanup in Oak Ridge.
“The partnership with UCOR and Roane State gave me an opportunity to go to school and learn about chemical engineering technology,” Trentham said. “The hands-on experience that you get working in the field, following other chemical operator journeymen — that experience is invaluable compared to in-class stuff. This opportunity really changed my life.”
Trentham was recently featured in an episode of the series “In Depth” hosted by Laurence Fishburne on PBS. The episode focused on the successful labor and industry partnership of UCOR and the Metal Trades. Watch it here.
Earlier this year, the labor partnership again proved beneficial when UCOR had trouble finding qualified vendors to perform pipe fabrication services for the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). At risk of schedule delays, the contractor was able to perform the work successfully with skilled welders provided by the Knoxville Building and Construction Trades. Those welders now support another major ORNL upgrade project.
“Considering the amount of cleanup ahead of us at the Y-12 National Security Complex and ORNL, and the skill required to perform those tasks, it’s essential to continue investing and building a workforce for the future,” Oak Ridge Office of EM Manager Jay Mullis said. “We commend UCOR for their efforts with the labor unions to build a trained, capable workforce to help us successfully achieve our mission.”