Expanding University, College Partnerships Pays Dividends for Oak Ridge

UCOR Chief Engineer Christie Sudduth speaks with a student at Tennessee Tech University’s career fair. The partnership with Tennessee Tech is one of the newest in a university consortium with UCOR.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – Developing and maintaining a trained workforce is essential to continue advancing cleanup progress happening across DOE’s Oak Ridge Reservation.

With a significant percentage of the workforce eligible to retire in the next decade, Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) contractor UCOR is exploring new opportunities to build a pipeline of local qualified workers needed to maintain momentum at the site.

In one such effort, the contractor is looking to colleges and universities in the region to help shape the next generations of workers.

Building on past successes, the goals have become more ambitious with the establishment of a university consortium to formalize, sustain and expand partnerships with higher education institutions.

The consortium has provided a coordinated approach to partnerships with educational institutions, while growing opportunities. UCOR’s partnerships have grown to include the University of Tennessee, Roane State Community College, Pellissippi State Community College, Benedict College, Florida International University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Murray State University, Tennessee State University and, most recently, Tennessee Tech University.

“Developing and maintaining a trained workforce is essential to the future of companies like ours,” UCOR President and CEO Ken Rueter said. “Our industry needs the leaders that this program is producing. In Oak Ridge alone, there are jobs for decades to come associated with environmental cleanup.”

UCOR Nuclear Operations Manager Tommy Morgan speaks to students during a seminar at Tennessee State University. The contractor provides leadership and subject matter experts to participate in guest lecture series with the university.

The university consortium has proven beneficial to Oak Ridge’s cleanup mission as well as the students and schools involved. OREM and its contractors are attracting top talent, while students have a better awareness of impactful careers with advancement opportunities.

UCOR also supports the schools by offering the expertise of its executives and subject matter experts. These employees serve on the schools’ advisory boards and support curriculum development. In some partnerships, UCOR also provides scholarship endowments and support for first generation students.

The contractor also plans a calendar of activities for each school that includes student seminars, guest lecture series, student organizations and chapter meetings, demonstrations with state-of-the-art equipment unavailable in classrooms, and senior projects. These plans promote innovative learning and professional development.

The university consortium is the latest initiative to cultivate the workforce of the future at Oak Ridge. In recent years, UCOR teamed up with higher education institutions to create educational opportunities that prepare students to work in the cleanup at Oak Ridge.

Through a partnership with the University of Tennessee’s nuclear engineering department and Oak Ridge Associated Universities, UCOR established the nation’s first minor degree in nuclear decommissioning and environmental management. The first students graduated with that focus in 2018.

UCOR President and CEO Ken Rueter speaks to University of Tennessee students during an engineering colloquium series.

UCOR then partnered with Roane State to support its efforts to create an associate degree in chemical engineering technology. The contractor also partnered with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations’ metal trades department to work with Roane State on offering a chemical operator program that provides students coursework and hands-on training through apprenticeships.

About Brad Jones

Brad is the Owner/Operator of BBB TV 12, and has been with the company since August of 1996. Brad is a 1987 graduate of Coalfield High School and a 1995 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Communications. He won the 1995 broadcast production student of the year award. Brad worked at Shop at Home, Inc. a home shopping network that was located in Knoxville, TN from 1993 - 1995 and then at Via TV (RSTV, Inc.) from 1995 - 1996. After some freelance work in Nashville, Brad joined the BBB Communications staff in August of 1996. A short stint at WVLT TV as a news photographer was in 2001, but he continued to work at BBB TV as well. Brad is married to Nicole Jenkins Jones, a 1990 graduate of Oak Ridge High School, who works at Oak Ridge Gastroenterology and Associates in Oak Ridge. They have 3 kids, Trevor Bogard, 27, Chandler 22, and Naomi 13. On December 12, 2013 they welcomed their first grandchild, Carter Ryan Bogard. Brad is also the assistant boys basketball coach at Coalfield High School for the past 11 years. In 2013-14 the Yellow Jackets won their first district title since 1991 and just the 4th in school history.

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