When New York state approved a multi-billion dollar bailout for upstate nuclear power plants last year, it breathed life back into an Onondaga Community College program that trains nuclear power plant technicians.
Onondaga Community College started its Nuclear Technology Program, or NET, four years ago. The idea was to help replace an aging workforce at two nuclear power plants in Oswego County and elsewhere. But when financial uncertainty caused talk of closing some nuclear plants, it caused OCC to step back from the program a bit, according to incoming NET coordinator Woody Everett.
"We did not think it was ethical to push the nuclear program and encourage people to get into it, if there weren’t going to be any jobs. But we're hoping to ramp it back up now, because they’re hiring at both plants,” Everett said.
And the pay for these technicians is good, reaching as much as $60,000 after two years. But the bad publicity about the plants put a damper on enrollment. Chair Art Petersen says there are still several openings in the program for the fall. He says OCC is working with programs in Oswego and Onondaga counties to try and recruit students. And Petersen says one other selling point is that because getting a nuclear technology certificate requires higher academic standards, working at a nuclear power plant isn’t the only option for graduates of the program.
“A lot of the processes in power generation they learn, could be transferred to other power plants. So with five years or more experience in the future, they’re going to be very marketable in other industries.”