Even though school is out, the summer months are a great time for nuclear sites to connect with students and educators to build interest and develop positive attitudes and aspirations towards science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The nuclear industry depends on a qualified workforce to safely and reliably operate power plants. However, the nuclear industry is facing a workforce shortage as half of employees are eligible for retirement in the next 10 years and due to the lack of students entering STEM career fields. Establishing strategic partnerships is an important way to provide learning opportunities to ensure well-prepared students and teachers.
Educational partnerships include programs focused on local schools, universities, summer camps, community organizations and more. These programs provide a valuable experience and may include plant tours, hands-on demonstrations for educators and students, and opportunities to speak with industry professionals.
Duke Energy’s nuclear sites have supported a number of programs this summer season. Harris Nuclear Plant near Raleigh, N.C. hosted an annual workshop for high school science teachers in conjunction with North Carolina State University. Teachers toured the site and learned about plant operations, radiation protection, emergency preparedness, material failure and analysis, as well as plant security. Rising sixth graders also attended a summer camp focused on energy and energy conservation, and students took part in a hands-on project led by a site engineer.
McGuire Nuclear Station in Huntersville, N.C. established new partnerships with North Carolina New Schools and Discovery Place. Both organizations offer a summer program for STEM educators to learn about career opportunities and how to better inspire students. The educators toured the plant, heard from a panel of speakers and participated in learning activities.
Oconee Nuclear Station in Pickens, S.C. participated in an “Invention Convention” where middle school students learned about nuclear energy and electricity at the site’s exhibit. Oconee is also working with Clemson University on a summer program aimed at introducing girls to careers in science and technology.
Engineering and chemistry professionals from Robinson Nuclear Plant near Hartsville, S.C. spoke to students at several different summer camps hosted by a regional school specializing in science and math. Brunswick Nuclear Plant near Wilmington, N.C. was recognized by the local school district for its STEM education partnerships and programs including “STEM Speaks” which connects nuclear professionals with students to promote STEM disciplines.
In addition to specific programs, Duke Energy’s energy education centers hosted hundreds of summer camp students and educators.
Education partnerships are a valuable way for the nuclear industry to reach out to educators and engage students. Programs promote an interest in STEM fields, raise awareness about the industry and build goodwill with the community. Most importantly, education partnerships help the nuclear industry develop its future workforce.