Through nuclear energy research, development and deployment, our national security mission and integrating clean energy options, Idaho National Laboratory staff makes the world cleaner and safer.
But our workforce is aging. Thirty percent of the lab’s employees are approaching retirement. At the same time, the lab is growing. Forecasts show our business volume increasing annually over the next decade and a half, from $918 million in 2015 to an estimated $1.8 billion in 2030.
It’s never been more important, therefore, to feed the talent pipeline in order to meet the lab’s short-and-long-term workforce needs. That involves more than just an education in nuclear or mechanical engineering. The lab and other employers need folks with a range of “soft” skills: the ability to manage projects; verbal and written communication skills; organizational skills; and computer and technological literacy.
In 2016, INL University Partnerships programs hosted 672 people from 138 institutions from across the United States and abroad. Learn more about the programs and accomplishments below.
INL feeds the talent pipeline by investing in education and research partnerships with institutions within our region and throughout the nation. INL plays host to academic visitors, international researchers, graduate students, postgraduate associates, interns and university partners. INL provides students, teachers and professors hands-on laboratory experience and the opportunity to work with world-class personnel.
INL has forged strong relationships with colleges and universities throughout the world and actively encourages its scientists and engineers to collaborate with their university peers on a variety of projects. Doing this fosters an entrepreneurial spirit and promotes creativity.
Growing the talent pipeline involves an investment in your own people. In an effort to help lab employees succeed in their current jobs and seek additional opportunities, INL covers tuition and fees from accredited institutions. Lab employees are encouraged to seek degrees, continue their educations or seek professional licenses and certifications.
University Place in Idaho Falls offers a wide variety of courses to INL employees, including licensing and certificates.
Growing the talent pipeline means promoting an interactive culture, fostering creativity and enhancing research collaboration between INL and outside researchers, including foreign nationals, who participate in educational and cultural exchanges at the lab and return home to share their experiences.
Growing the talent pipeline involves paying high school students, undergrads and graduate students to work on specific projects and apply science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education concepts in a real-world setting. An INL internship builds confidence, introduces students to possible career fields and complements what they are studying in school.
Growing the talent pipeline requires collaboration with leading minds outside the lab. INL and university scientists develop and conduct research at both the lab and universities, contributing to the missions of both institutions.
National University Consortium
Engaging in collaborative research that strengthens the portfolios of INL and the partner universities to further the nation’s strategic nuclear energy objectives.
Graduate Fellowship Program
The INL Graduate Fellowship Program is designed to identify exceptional talent in research areas aligned with INL’s strategic agenda to enable the current and future mission of the Department of Energy (DOE) and INL. The program, a collaboration between INL and universities, provides mentoring and financial support for outstanding students who plan to enroll in graduate degree programs. This is a triad relationship between the student, the university thesis advisor and the INL technical advisor to provide meaningful research and mentorship throughout the entire graduate program.
Growing the talent pipeline means providing a mentored research experience and hands-on laboratory experience to individuals with a qualifying doctorate degree. Using the lab setting to deepen postdoc expertise helps ensure the continuity of the INL workforce and spreads the lab’s science and technology influence.
University Workforce Development Pipeline
Growing the talent pipeline means helping create an environment in which technology can be brought to market by meeting industry needs and making sure the next generation of tech workers is prepared to replace the aging energy workforce. We do this in a variety of ways, including support for economic development agencies, technical colleges, universities and graduate programs.
How do we measure success?
Obviously, if INL trains and then hires an early career employee, and he or she helps us in our daily mission of meeting the nation’s big energy and security challenges, that’s success. But it’s also a success if one of those early career people who intern, or do their postdoctoral research at the lab venture out and make the world a better place. If they take the knowledge learned here to their home institution. If they extend the lab’s footprint. If they help make the world more STEM literate. If they do their part in, as our INL Director Mark Peters recently wrote, making our world cleaner, safer and kinder.
Because that’s what we’re all about.