Graduating into the Workforce

Professor Tab Cox (right) teaches students enrolled in the Nuclear Technology major.

It almost sounds too good to be true.

If you love algebra, Onondaga Community College has a two-year degree program which can help you qualify for a job with a starting salary of more than $50,000 a year.

It’s the Nuclear Technology major. The program was created five years ago in response to a workforce demand. Exelon, which operates the Nine Mile and Fitzpatrick nuclear plants, estimated approximately half of its workforce would be eligible to retire in the next 10 years.

The Nuclear Technology major can only accept 24 students a year. Each class contains students of all ages. “We’ve had students right out of high school and we’ve had students who already had bachelor’s degrees and couldn’t get jobs,” said Woody Everett, Coordinator of the Nuclear Technology major. “They took their nuclear classes and two years later were working.”

Zach Phillips

Each summer eight students are chosen for internships at Nine Mile nuclear plant. They are paid $17.51 an hour and spend time working in different areas including electrical maintenance, mechanical maintenance, instrument and control maintenance, and operations. Zach Phillips (Fulton H.S.), who will earn his degree this May, found the internship opportunity to be exactly what he was looking for. “While I was there I knew it was right for me. I asked a lot of questions and pestered people every day. I also met several former OCC students who are established there. I learned a lot from them and they are doing well there.”

The adjunct professors in the Nuclear Technology major are experts in the field. They are all currently employed at the nuclear plant. In some respects, the classes are an extended job interview. “The people who are going to be deciding whom gets hired already know our students before they apply,” said Everett.

When it’s time to hire, OCC’s students are extremely desirable. “They love our students because they’re local. They have family here, they know what the weather is like here and they want to be here. Often times when they hire someone from outside the area they leave after six months because they don’t like the winters,” said Everett.

Students majoring in Nuclear Technology also take several Electrical Technology courses. Their diverse skill set has led to job opportunities outside the nuclear industry at strong Central New York companies including Huhtamaki, Ingersoll Rand and Nucor.

You can learn more about the Nuclear Technology major here.

You can learn more about the Electrical Technology major here.

2017 Commencement Student Speaker

Henry Humiston

Henry Humiston will be the student speaker at commencement. He is a 46-year-old dual major who will receive degrees in Nuclear Technology and Electrical Engineering Technology.

Humiston grew up in Liverpool and was diagnosed with ADHD at age 12. He earned his GED and became a professional drywall finisher. A back injury led him to rethink his career options. At his mother’s urging, he enrolled in OCC. During the summer of 2012 he began taking classes at OCC @ Liverpool before eventually coming to the main campus.

During the 2016-17 academic year Humiston served the campus community as an officer in the Student Association. In April, he was named the top student in the College’s Nuclear Technology major. He has accepted a job offer from Exelon and will begin working at Nine Mile Point in June. “Excited and blown away don’t even begin to describe how I feel about being selected,” said Humiston. “OCC has been the best second chance a person could ask for.”

OCC’s Commencement will be held Saturday, May 13 at 10 a.m. in the SRC Arena.

In the week leading up to commencement, WSYR-TV Newschannel 9 profiled Humiston on the evening news. You can view the story here.

Matt Payne

Matt Payne will be a member of OCC’s first class of students graduating from the Nuclear Energy Technology degree program. The 44-year-old father of four saw the opportunity of a lifetime when the College started the program in the fall of 2013. Payne decided to return to school after 20 years in the workforce. “My biggest challenge was time management, having a family, and cutting back to working part-time. After the first couple weeks everything fell into place.”

During the summer of 2014 Payne completed a nine-week internship at Exelon Generation’s Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station in Scriba. He divided his time evenly among all three maintenance disciplines; instrument & controls, mechanical, and electrical and received hands-on experience working throughout the plant. “It was a great experience. I was surrounded by wonderful people in the safest environment I have ever worked in. It was confirmation I made the right choice pursuing this degree.”

Payne’s work toward his associate degree at OCC is just the beginning of his journey. “After I graduate and get a job in the nuclear industry I want to pursue a master’s in Electrical Engineering.”