One of the region’s largest employers continues to expand its partnerships with area educational institutions.
The Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL), one of the missions at the Savannah River Site, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Augusta Technical College on Sept. 5.
“We’re thrilled to just provide an opportunity for students in this community to be able to get into apprenticeships and get workforce development opportunities to be engaged in being employed,” said Jermaine Whirl, President of Augusta Tech. “The MOU that we’re signing is really focused on that, and how do we collaborate as institutions of higher education with the lab, because we’ll have a lot of jobs, and many more to come as you’re expanding.”
This is the second such agreement SRNL has signed with higher education institutions. Earlier this year, they signed a similar MOU with Augusta University at the Georgia Cyber and Innovation Training Center.
Dr. Tammy Taylor, associate laboratory director at Global Security at SRNL, said she has spoken with colleagues at the 17 national laboratories and all say the same thing. They need trained workers.
Taylor said they create partnerships where they have staffing needs.
“We really want to put regional people to work at the National Laboratory. So, from the perspective of the specific relationship with Augusta Tech, we need to grow our laboratory technician partnership, most expressly, that’s the immediate need,” she explained. “In national security terms, that’s anything from nuclear engineering technology, through chemistry, all the way to cybersecurity needs.”
SRNL is the applied research and development laboratory for the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management. It focuses on national and international energy issues, the environment, and national security.
Whirl said the college will launch a new apprenticeship technician pathway program in January 2024.
“We specifically wanted to ensure that we had an opportunity for those who wanted to work in the lab space to know that those opportunities do exist, and they can get that training here, whether it’s on a credit or non-credit side,” he said.
Taylor said it is not just growth and new missions creating an increasing need for trained and skilled workers. Veteran workers are retiring in larger numbers.
“Across the national laboratories right now, we see a bimodal workforce population,” she said. “The generation that I represent were very few in numbers and the generation before me, they are retiring on a weekly basis. And so, we are counting on a new generation of people to come in and replenish the workforce.”
Taylor said among the critical needs are chemistry technicians, nuclear engineering technicians, and mechanical engineering technicians.
Whirl said the focus will be on education and workforce development, apprenticeship and internships, and the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative.