By Bob Fowler, Roane State staff writer
Chris Borum, for more than 16 years a security guard at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, said it was time for a change.
As the years passed, he worried he might not be able to meet rigorous annual physical qualifications for his job at the nuclear weapons facility.
Borum, a Kingston resident, said he wanted to stay at Y-12 and eventually retire from there, “but I wanted to leave on my own terms.”
So when a job posting for a material handler was posted on the Y-12’s Intranet, he went for it.
That’s when a unique partnership between Y-12, Roane State Community College, and the Tennessee Department of Labor came into play.
Consolidated Nuclear Security LLC, or CNS, the contractor that operates Y-12 for the National Nuclear Security Administration, had sought and won a $62,550 state grant to make sure some 450 employees had the necessary job skills needed for their positions. Those job categories were laborer, janitor, material handler, assembly person, and chemical operator.
Roane State was brought into the picture to provide the training that allowed employees to prepare for the National Career Readiness Certificate testing.
Borum said he’d been out of school for more than 30 years, “and I knew I had to at least have some refresher courses.”
Roane State offered those classes in applied math, Workplace Documents (reading comprehension) and Graphic literacy, and Borum promptly signed up, taking the courses at the college’s Oak Ridge campus.
“A lot of it clicked,” Borum said of the classes. “Others, not so much, but the instructors were very patient.”
Borum said his Y-12 supervisors worked with his schedule to accommodate him. After classes wrapped up, he took what’s called the National Career Readiness Certificate testing.
Borum “blew the top off” of the assessment, said Kim Harris, director of Roane State’s Workforce Training and Placement Department.
“I impressed myself,” said Borum, laughing. He started his new job in September.
He ran into one of his Roane State instructors recently and ”told her how the classes and her skills changed his life because he was able to apply for any of the five jobs profiled,” Harris said.
“You’re never too old to seek lifelong learning opportunities,” she said.
Deniece Thomas, with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, praised the partnership between the state, the college, and Y-12. “This is a tremendous program that benefitted not only CNS/Y-12 but also its employees,” she said.
“It gave the company a larger pool of qualified workers to recruit from while providing individual employees a pathway to in-demand job skills that will benefit their careers for years to come,” Thomas said.
Putting the plan into action required much behind-the-scenes work by several organizations, including a jobs analysis by the nonprofit Workforce Essentials and assistance from the Department of Labor’s local American Job Center.
For Borum, taking classes at Roane State brought back good memories. He took the college’s EMT class as a young man, and his younger daughter recently graduated from the community college.
Now, his new job also prompted him to make some personal changes that he couldn’t have done as a security guard: He grew a beard and longer hair.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
This story and photo were submitted by Owen Driskill.
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