The National Nuclear Security Administration has awarded $7 million for workforce development and education to minority-serving schools in New Mexico and South Carolina as the Department of Energy agency ramps toward the production of nuclear weapon cores in both locations.
The money, split evenly between the two states, will be distributed among historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-serving institutions and tribal colleges and universities, the NNSA said. Some of the funding will be used to buy training equipment and other teaching supplies.
Local recipients on a list provided by the NNSA include S.C. State University, Denmark Technical College and Benedict College. S.C. State is home to a dedicated nuclear engineering program.
National Nuclear Security Administration administrator Jill Hruby in a statement Thursday said her agency is "dedicated to building a diverse, capable workforce." Partnering with minority-serving institutions, she continued, ensures "a diverse pipeline of talented next-generation professionals who will help us meet our current and future pit production goals."
The New Mexico Academic Consortium and the Savannah River Site Community Reuse Organization (SRSCRO) are managing the grants. The SRSCRO also handles the Workforce Opportunities in Regional Careers program, which supports students training in disciplines applicable to the Savannah River Site.
The Palmetto state's Rep. Jim Clyburn on Thursday said he was "pleased to have worked with the National Nuclear Security Administration at the Department of Energy to make funding available to all eight historically black colleges and universities in South Carolina." The No. 3 House Democrat believes such investments will pay dividends in workforce diversity, ability, and financial stability.
Rep. Joe Wilson, whose district includes all of Aiken County, concurred in a separate statement.
"It is exciting to see these funds directed towards fulfilling a critical and diverse workforce channel that supports new missions at the Savannah River Site," the Republican congressman said. "I appreciate the National Nuclear Security Administration, in partnership with the Savannah River Site Community Reuse Organization, recognizing the talent in our region and investing these dollars to support good-paying jobs for decades to come."
Savannah River Site contractors have similarly inked partnerships with HBCUs and other colleges. Memorandums of understanding and other cooperation agreements, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions President and CEO Stuart MacVean has said, "ensure students graduate with a high degree of confidence that they will be successful in obtaining the skills needed to qualify for jobs" at the site.