Rory Langdon was sending out his resume to possible employers, on the hunt for an internship.
But the junior in the cybersecurity program at Columbia Basin College got feedback that the document was too long.
So, he reached out to Elie Soderquist, director for career services. She helped him make some cuts and punch it up.
“That was the resume I submitted that got me the interview,” said Langdon, who ultimately secured an internship with Washington River Protection Solutions, a Hanford contractor.
“It’s been great. I love it,” he said, adding that he’s hopeful he’ll be hired permanently at WRPS after he graduates.
That’s the idea behind Pathways to Hanford, a new program at the Pasco college that aims to help students like Langford get their foot in the door at the Hanford nuclear site.
For many students, the Hanford site can be an enigma — they don’t have a sense of the varied career opportunities available there or how to go about exploring and pursuing them.
“We’re really excited about it,” Soderquist said of the program, which launched in the winter of 2022. “We want to accommodate our students and remove as many barriers as possible. We want to ensure they have a pathway.”
The program offers everything from a list of in-demand careers with promising futures at Hanford, to resume guides, Microsoft Suite trainings and certifications, in-person/virtual events with contractors, workshops and internship opportunities.
More than 130 students currently are taking part in Pathways, which has rolling admission. And about 17 students, including Langford, are getting work experience by completing internships with contractors in everything from project management to engineering and computer science.
Along with WRPS, the Pathways program has interns at Central Plateau Cleanup Company, or CPCCo, Hanford Mission Integration Solutions, or HMIS, and Bechtel.
While Pathways benefits students, it’s also a potential boon for Hanford contractors who are grappling with an aging and retiring workforce and increased needs for labor.
Last year, HMIS donated $150,000 toward Pathways and similar efforts at CBC with that in mind. “As a strong supporter of this program from its inception, we wanted to ensure students have the tools and resources they need to enter programs prepared, finish on time and be ready to enter the workforce,” said Amy Basche, the company’s chief operating officer, in a statement. “We know firsthand the importance of partnerships like this with our educational institutions, and we know this donation will help prepare future generations of Hanford workers.”
Michael Lee, vice president of instruction for CBC, said that was an important consideration in starting the Pathways program.
“Part of our mission at CBC is to develop the workforce in our area. Hanford and its contractors – they’re an important part of the community,” Lee told the Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business.
CBC isn’t the only local higher education institution to be thinking about the classroom-to-Hanford pipeline.
While Washington State University Tri-Cities doesn’t have a similar program, it does offer degrees helpful for landing jobs at the site, including engineering, computer science, and environmental and ecosystem sciences, said Leslie Streeter, director of marketing and communication.
Plus, the university has partnerships, internships and research opportunities with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, WRPS and others, Streeter said.
She also pointed to the Institute for Northwest Energy Futures, which “will bring another level of educating the future workforce, especially around energy transformation.” Gov. Jay Inslee announced last year that he was seeking $10 million in state funding for the research center at WSU Tri-Cities.
At CBC, the Pathways program is also about equity and trying to level the playing field. Soderquist said her office noticed an inequality in access and wanted to help students with no legacy connection to the Hanford site.
“We want to be that guiding light. We want to create the opportunity for equality to shine,” she said.
For Langdon, the WRPS internship has provided a chance to get relevant work experience, make connections and get a foot in the door. The 30-year-old, who lives in Richland, previously worked in lawn care and pest control before deciding to lean into his “computer nerd” tendencies.
He earned an associate degree in programming and software development from CBC and then opted to pursue a bachelor’s in cybersecurity. A job at a place like Hanford is the goal, and he’s grateful for Soderquist and the Pathways program.
“If anyone is interested or curious, definitely reach out,” he said. “It’s not as scary as you think.”
To learn more about Pathways to Hanford, click here.
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