NNSA to Contribute $5 Million to Develop the Region’s Future Workforce
Aiken Technical College (Aiken Tech) is among the five area colleges that will benefit from a $5 million investment by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to develop the future workforce to carry out vital missions at the Savannah River Site (SRS).
Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, Under Secretary for Nuclear Security of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Administrator of the NNSA, announced that the agency will provide a new contribution of $1 million per year for the next five years through a local nonprofit that supports programs at five post-secondary education institutions in the region around SRS.
“For nearly 70 years, the men and women at Savannah River Site have played a critical role in our Nation’s defense. The schools here in the Central Savannah River Area have been instrumental in preparing that workforce,” said Administrator Gordon-Hagerty. “As many of you know, our mission at Savannah River Site will be growing – not decreasing. We will continue to rely on you to train the workforce for the future. The Department of Energy and NNSA are committed to this partnership and helping sustain the great work being done.”
The investment represents a 100 percent increase in the funding for the Workforce Opportunities in Regional Careers (WORC) program administered by the Savannah River Site Community Reuse Organization (SRSCRO).
The WORC program partners with Aiken Tech, Augusta Technical College, Augusta University, University of South Carolina-Aiken, and University of South Carolina-Salkehatchie.
The announcement came during a press conference held June 17 at Aiken Tech. Administrator Gordon-Hagerty was joined by leadership from the five educational institutions and the SRSCRO for the announcement. She was also joined by South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson and Georgia Congressman Rick W. Allen.
In 2016, NNSA and DOE-Environmental Management began working with SRSCRO to develop an avenue that would ensure a capable workforce at SRS. The result was the WORC grant, established to fund local colleges and universities in the region, to develop and retain workers with the requisite skills, experience, certifications, and proficiency across multiple scientific, engineering, technical, craft, and business support disciplines.
Since FY16, DOE-EM and NNSA have funded WORC at a combined total of $1 million per year. The new $1 million per year investment is in addition to the ongoing funding.
Growing NNSA missions at SRS in support of the nation’s nuclear deterrent, including the proposed plutonium pit mission and the long-standing tritium mission, prompted NNSA to enhance its efforts to develop an enduring workforce that will carry out these long-term missions.
“Aiken Technical College has been able help build a strong workforce pipeline for the nuclear industry through the WORC program,” said Aiken Tech President Dr. Forest Mahan. “Our mission is to provide area citizens with opportunities for educational and workforce development. This partnership has enabled us to help area citizens recognize the industry’s need for highly-skilled employees, connect them with educational pathways that help them gain those skills, and work with SRS and other partners to help successfully transition graduates into the workforce.”
Since 2016, the College has awarded nearly $149,000 in WORC scholarships to qualifying students enrolled in radiation protection technology, nuclear fundamentals, electronics engineering, industrial maintenance, and pre-STEM technician programs.
During the 2019-2020 academic year, funding will also be used to purchase new equipment to enhance the overall learning environment and better prepare students for their future careers.
For more information about the WORC program, visit https://srscro.org/nuclear-workforce-initiative/college-university-programs/. For information about Aiken Tech’s WORC related programs and opportunities, visit www.atc.edu/WORC.