Onondaga Community College: Responding to Workforce Demand
Onondaga Community College (OCC), in Syracuse, New York, began educating the next wave of nuclear energy industry workers in the fall of 2013 when it became one of only 36 colleges in the country to offer an A.A.S. degree in Nuclear Energy Technology (NET). The program was created in direct response to a workforce demand brought to the college by the nuclear energy industry. It estimates approximately half of its workforce will be eligible to retire during the next 10 years. The program and its curriculum were funded initially by a grant from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and a gift from Constellation Energy Nuclear Group.
Students in OCC’s first NET class showed dedication and commitment from the beginning. “These students gave it their best from the start,” said Professor Tab Cox, who oversees the program. “Their drive for success was impressive. They all knew at the end of this rainbow was a pot of gold.” The starting annual salary for program graduates was $53,000.
In May 2015, OCC graduated its first class of students with NET degrees. Of the 13 graduates, 12 secured employment before commencement, with the 13th student planning to pursue a bachelor’s degree. One of those graduates is now working in a local nuclear facility. Fourteen years after earning his high school diploma, Steve Einbinder enrolled in OCC’s NET program. “My father and brother both had nuclear backgrounds. My goal was to get into Nine Mile or one of the power plants. It’s very difficult to get into the industry. They are always looking for someone with a bachelor’s or master’s. To have a two-year program that gets you into the industry is a great thing.”
The 34-year-old father of three is proud of what he has accomplished later in life. “I had gone to college right out of high school. It was much more difficult the second time around as I juggled working full-time and having a family. I’m glad I came here and did it though. Everything worked out in the end!”