Melissa Slater has already received one promotion at work after completing a new two-year degree offered at Columbia Basin College with the help of a Department of Energy grant.
But the Pasco woman set her career goals higher and continues to work full-time days while she pursues a full load of college classes at night to earn CBC's new four-year degree in project management. That degree also is offered with money from the DOE grant.
DOE has provided CBC and Washington State University Tri-Cities $3.9 million in four years to develop projects to increase interest in and educate students for Hanford and other jobs, including in project management, nuclear engineering and radiation safety.
The program has been a success, said officials from DOE, CBC and WSU Tri-Cities at a Tuesday news conference.
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Local colleges are a key component to provide workers for Hanford with the skills in project management and engineering needed for cleanup at the nuclear reservation, said Greg Jones, DOE's chief financial officer for Hanford.
"Both of our colleges have used their grants wisely to create programs for students to enhance and develop these important skills," Jones said.
Almost 300 students have enrolled in the project management program created by CBC with the grant, with 126 already earning a one-year certificate or two-year associate degree. The first Bachelor of Applied Science degrees were awarded to nine students in June.
In addition, CBC created "smart" classrooms with distance learning technology, equipped a project management computer laboratory and conducted short courses in project management for local residents.
WSU Tri-Cities has developed programs for graduate certificates in nuclear engineering and health and safety and enrolled 150 students.
It also has launched an outreach and awareness campaign for STEM -- science, technology, engineering and math -- careers and launched a STEM mentoring program.
WSU Tri-Cities junior Alax Von Hall, an electrical engineering student and single mom, started out being mentored in the program that matches freshmen and sophomore students in STEM majors with more experienced students and industry contacts.
"I thought it was so valuable I wanted to be part of it," Von Hall said.
Now she works 20 hours a week as the peer mentoring program coordinator, a program paid for with the DOE grant.
Slater picked CBC after looking for the best program at the best price to advance her career in the construction design industry. Two weeks after graduation with her associate of applied science degree in project management, she was promoted at Meier Architecture Engineering to an assistant project manager.
Now she has set her sights on earning the next CBC degree, which could lead to a job as a senior project manager and her ultimate goal of becoming quality manager, she said.
CBC and WSU Tri-Cities have helped students by awarding $774,000 in scholarships and stipends with the DOE grant.
The schools are making plans for a fifth year of the DOE grant, worth about $1 million.
WSU Tri-Cities would like to expand the mentoring program and to find ways to allow students across the state and the DOE complex to earn its graduate certificates.
CBC wants to offer more short courses and develop distance learning courses.
-- Annette Cary: 509-582-1533; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @HanfordNews