A group of recent high school graduates completed Aiken Technical College’s six-week Nuclear Workforce Initiative Academy, gaining insight into the high-demand jobs available in the nuclear industry.

The NWI Academy was developed out of a grant received by the Savannah River Site Community Reuse Organization and is intended to give recent high school graduates or GED recipients the opportunity to explore the nuclear field as a career option.

Last week, 2013 academy participants Gayle Walker, Brion Frazier and Lyshane Bacon completed the full-time program and were recognized during a completion ceremony on campus.

Participants enrolled in four courses: introduction to radiation protection, HAZWOPER, college skills and safety in the workplace. They also completed a resume and earned a Career Readiness Certificate, a 40-hour HAZWOPER certificate and six credit hours toward a certificate at ATC.

“We’ve discovered through our partnerships that many young people do not begin to explore opportunities in the nuclear industry because they aren’t aware of the possibilities,” said Steven Simmons, the ATC dean of business, computer technology and training. “The purpose of NWI is to expose students to the career opportunities available in the nuclear industry and to help them begin the transition from high school to a college environment.”

During the program, the students participated in hands-on activities and visited sites like the Savannah River Site and VC Summer Nuclear Station near Columbia.

Walker, a recent graduate of the Aiken Performing Arts Academy, had never considered a nuclear career until she heard about the Nuclear Workforce Initiative program. She now plans to enroll in ATC’s radiation protection program and hopes to eventually work at SRS.

Frazier, also an Aiken Performing Arts Academy graduate, said the hands-on activities and learning the proper way to dress out in protective suits were his favorite parts of the program.

“I had never done anything like it before,” said Frazier, who plans to enroll at ATC and study marketing before transferring to a four-year college.

Bacon, an Aiken High School graduate, said he planned to pursue training as an electrician and learned that there are many opportunities available for electricians in the nuclear field.

“I learned a lot about radiation and how protective it is and how much safety is involved,” Bacon said.

This was the third summer that ATC offered the Nuclear Workforce Initiative Academy.