Sun, June 23, 2024

Fostering success with apprenticeships

The importance of apprenticeships in developing a successful career was highlighted during the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Women in Business luncheon in May.

Three women who have skillfully navigated training, internships, and apprenticeships led the presentation. Wennie Squires is the Cyber Career Success Coordinator at the Georgia Cyber Innovation & Training Center with Augusta University. She was joined by Booboo Roberts, Program Manager, and Abigail Bowman, College Partner, for the Apprenticeship School and Pipeline Development Training Workforce Programs with the SRS Apprenticeship Program.

Roberts said the three main contractors at the Savannah River Site (SRS) have about 12,000 workers. She said all of the contractors face the same challenge, workforce development. That is compounded by the number of baby boomers in their workforce who are now beginning to retire.

“The common challenge was, ‘Where did these people come from? How do we get employees?’ There is a need for a specific set of skills at the Savannah River Site,” she said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to reach these people, and then also train the people so that they can walk into those different disciplines.”

That led to the creation of the SRS Apprentice School at Aiken Technical College.

“So, the company had a need. The apprenticeship program, was the answer to fulfill it, to train them, mentor them, give them everything they need,” explained Bowman. “And then from there, they can go ahead and go into their facilities specifically and make a difference right away because they’ve gone through that process.”

It is an eight-month program. Students spend two days a week in classrooms and two days a week at SRS getting on-the-job training. Once completed, the students are certified in nuclear fundamentals. Many are immediately hired for a position at SRS.

“We don’t want you to think of the old traditional apprenticeship program,” cautioned Roberts. “The way we look at our apprenticeship programs today is we’re partnering and we’re collaborating with all these different agencies to build their pathway into each of these disciplines.”

“Sometimes, when people nowadays mention apprentices, they think of a union with different crafts, and those things that are valuable for them. But working in the nuclear industry, we had to come up with something that would be valuable to us that would meet that workforce demand,” she added.

Shanterra Hughes, one of the recent graduates of the Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) Nuclear Operator apprenticeship program, said the program led to a new career.

“The apprenticeship program opened up doors for me. I have a career and go to school and not pay for it. And take care of my kids,” she said. “I have learned so much in eight months, and I’m still training now on the site. And it’s just amazing to be a part of something so big. I know this is just a stepping stone. I plan on just going up, up, higher in this career and SRNS.”

Squires said, in her position, it is her responsibility to connect students with job opportunities in the facilities through the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center.

“What we’re here to talk about is paving the way and figuring out how we can make that connection for students between completing an undergraduate program or even a graduate program or high school and finding that first job that is able to lead them into a meaningful career,” she said. “We are able to bring students into a place where we have full-time working professionals. They are able to take the skills that they learned in the classroom and apply them in a practical sense.”

Currently, SRNS has 22 apprenticeship programs.

More information on the apprenticeship school is at: www.atc.edu/Study/Programs-of-Study/Technical-and-Continuing-Education/Nuclear-Fundamentals

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