Thursday, September 08, 2011

Striving for a Better Life

img2NEI, the nuclear industry and a stack of community colleges have a program to offer certification in several nuclear energy specialties. The program has been notably successful – you can read more about it here – but it’s always a treat when local press picks up on it. And that’s what the Miami Herald has done:

Forty-one-year-old Tomas Alvarez left Cuba in December 2007 to settle in Homestead. While working for American Airlines as a skycap for four years, he learned to speak English. Now he has earned an associate’s degree from Miami Dade College and should soon start a new job as a nuclear technician with Florida Power & Light, one of the state’s largest employers.

Alvarez received his training through the Clean Energy Institute, a cooperative program organized by MDC and FPL. Graduates of the program are trained as technicians and offered a yearly starting salary of about $55,000 to $57,000.

Writer Stephanie Parra hit a goldmine with Mr. Alvarez, showing  upward mobility, opportunities for immigrants and the fruits of striving for a better life. These are themes applicable anywhere, but they are especially resonant in the Miami area, so what better way to demonstrate these than the program offered at the Clean Energy Institute.

The idea here is not only to offer certification but jobs, as FP&L happens to have several nuclear facilities in its portfolio and a graying work force at those facilities. Consequently, the program has an excellent record of placing graduates.

The nation is experiencing a critical shortage of skilled nuclear workers. A significant number of workers are, or will soon become eligible for retirement,” said James Auld, who serves as the industry and community training coordinator for FPL. “To address the aging workforce, Florida Power & Light, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Miami Dade College collaborated to develop a skilled worker pipeline program.”

And unions! If you want to know what the motor has been to raise workers into the middle class, that’s it.

Although we shouldn’t neglect Mr. Alvarez:

For Alvarez, the program also offers a way to provide for his wife and son.

“I have my wife and son still in Cuba, but I am very happy because not only I do I get my profession back, but I also will be able to support my family when they arrive shortly,” he said.

It’s all good.


We don’t hone in on NEI all that much because we assume our readers know what it is and what it does. Reading a string of corporate press releases, whatever the context, can be deadly. So log-rolling on the blog is kept rather minimal. But there’s a theme today:

Ten years ago, nuclear plant security already was formidable and presented a clear deterrent against potential threats. Still, because of the 9/11 attacks, security was elevated to an unprecedented level.

That’s NEI President and CEO Marv Fertel, who uses the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to review what nuclear facilities did under the shadow of that terrible day.

Since 2001, the nuclear industry has spent more than $2 billion on security enhancements, including the addition of thousands of highly qualified security officers. This layer upon layer of formidable security includes physical barriers, followed by state-of-the-art detection technology, followed by sophisticated protocols for plant access, followed by added surveillance capabilities, and backed by a protective force of thousands of highly trained, well-armed officers.

These are neither Blackwater types shooting up a wedding party nor the friendly old fellow in a uniform down at the drugstore. These officers are formidably well trained but not loose cannons. They drill on various scenarios that could beset a facility and have well worked-out procedures to cope with various hostile situations.

Fertel talks about other elements of facility protection, but it’s right that he reserve central focus for the security forces. These are tough jobs with a stress level few of us would envy. And yet there they are, dong the job.


Hmmm, anything else? Well, NEI has put together a group of pages about the nuclear energy industry’s response to September 11. It wasn’t designed to support Mr. Fertel’s piece in the Daily Caller, but it does a fair enough job of doing so anyway. Start here and explore away.

A downtown nuclear plant? No – it’s Miami-Dade College.

1 comment:

John Wheeler said...

NextEra / FPL should be praised for their support of these community college programs at Miami Dade CC (near Turkey Point) and Indian River CC (near Port St. Lucie). They are a model for the industry.

One of the key components of their success is the utility has committed to hire a certain number of program graduates in each of the next several years. This provides the schools with assurance they will have jobs for their graduates, and incentive for the students because they know the best performers will get the jobs.