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.