All 20 recent graduates of an area program are working or soon starting at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Paducah site — a rapid hire pipeline marking a local need for skilled workers.
“A total life-changer,” said LaDonya Crass, a newly-certified radiological control technician (RCT), after a new six-month program at West Kentucky Community and Technical College.
She and 19 others trained through the United Steelworkers Union Local 550 chapter at no cost. WKCTC, one of several area partners, provided classroom space, with Dr. Anton Reece, WCKTC president, congratulating students during a Thursday ceremony on campus.
Crass, 42, told The Sun she became a waitress at 15 years old, but RCT training offered more pay and six months reduced from the three years required for senior technician certification.
“Everyone was new to each other, but over that time, the ice broke,” she said. “When we started, we had each other, we had our teachers, and we had Rusty, so that was amazing.”
“When we started, it was a good idea, then I realized it was something important,” said Rusty Reynolds, training coordinator for the USW 550 chapter. “I had no clue they’d put this much time in it.”
Several speakers noted local RCT vacancies.
A letter of reciprocity lets technicians apply nationwide across the DOE complex, but local pay and benefits could incentivize technicians to stay rooted.
“I’ve been all over the world in this business, and RCT techs are one of the most sought-after positions,” said Jim Barker, Mid-America Conversion Services program director for the Paducah Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride facility. “Graduate (from) this class, get experience at one of our plants, and you can write your ticket anywhere in this country.”
April Ladd, acting lead for the Paducah DOE site, noted the open positions. Program Assistant Fiona Galley — with another partner, the USW Tony Mazzocchi Center of Pittsburgh — said they were “thrilled” to help implement the program.
“The teachers also have stepped up, and everyone in this project has opened their doors to help,” said Gary Wilson, president of the USW 550 chapter.
Kaylyn Suitor, 23, has family at the DoE site who recommended the job, adding she saw the benefit of being close to them.
“Seventeen of us started (at the DoE site), and one starts on Monday,” said graduate Dylan Barletto, 30, who previously worked as a bartender. “We had teachers who taught us by the book. It has been a great opportunity, and I hope the program continues.”
Other graduating 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.