PADUCAH — The 20 recent graduates of an area training program are working or will soon start at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Paducah site — a rapid recruitment pipeline marking a local need for skilled workers.
“Total life changing,” said LaDonya Crass, a newly certified radiation survey technician (RCT), after a new six-month program at West Kentucky Community and Technical College.
She and 19 others received free training through United Steelworkers Local 550. WKCTC, one of many partners in the region, provided classroom space, with Dr. Anton Reece, WCKTC President, congratulating the students during a ceremony on Thursday, November 3 at the Paducah campus.
Crass, 42, told the Paducah Sun she became a waitress at age 15, but RCT training offered a higher pay and six months cut compared to the three years required for senior technician certification.
“Everyone was new to each other, but during that time the ice broke,” she said. “When we started we had met, we had our teachers and we had Rusty, so it was amazing.”
“When we started it was a good idea, and then I realized it was a big thing,” said Rusty Reynolds, training coordinator for USW Chapter 550. “I had no idea. idea that they would devote so much time to it.”
Several speakers noted local RCT vacancies in Paducah.
A reciprocal letter allows techs to apply nationally throughout the DOE complex, but local pay and benefits might incentivize techs to stay grounded.
“I’ve been all over the world in this field, and RCT technicians are one of the most in-demand positions,” said Jim Barker, Mid-America Conversion Services program manager for the hexafluoride facility of depleted uranium from Paducah. “Graduate (from) this class, gain experience in one of our factories and you can write your ticket anywhere in this country.”
April Ladd, acting Paducah DOE site manager, noted the vacancies. Program assistant Fiona Galley – along with another partner, the USW Tony Mazzocchi Center in Pittsburgh – said she was “thrilled” to help implement the program.
“Teachers have also stepped up and everyone in this project has opened their doors to help,” said Gary Wilson, president of USW Chapter 550.
Kaylyn Suitor, 23, has family on the DOE site who recommended the job, adding she saw the benefit of being close to them.
“Seventeen of us started (on the DOE site) and one starts Monday (November 7),” said Dylan Barletto, 30, who previously worked as a bartender. “We had teachers who taught us according to the book. It has been a great opportunity and I hope the program will continue.
Other graduate students are Levi Allen, Brian Crowder, Ryan Daily, Ryan English, Laken Enlow-Harrison, Robert Farrell, Brandy Glisson, Isaiah Knoth, Franklin Overby, Amber Roberson, Zachary Sarles, Abbie Smith, Kessler Stacy, Hayden Summers, Joe Timmons, Andrea Waldon and Joshua Walker.
Several students thanked their teachers by name alongside Reynolds: Shane Davis, Kristi Deecke, Denise Jones, Angie Rizzie, Daniel Quarles and Missy Quarles.