By Lauren Wanko
Maintenance instructor Victor Rubio transitioned from the Navy to the nuclear power industry. The career move eventually led him to the PSEG Nuclear site in Salem County. He’s one of many new hires the company’s seeking to attract as the industry grows and baby boomers retire.
“I like the fact that it’s growing. When my last plant shut down, I was in a hard place but I knew as long as I was willing to move to a new area there would probably be a job for me,” Rubio said.
“Over the next five years we anticipate that 35 percent of our workforce will be retirement eligible,” said PSEG Nuclear Communications Manager Joe Delmar.
Ten years from now, 65 percent of PSEG Nuclear’s workforce will be up for retirement, which is why the company has teamed up with colleges to train the industry’s future employees. Thomas Edison State College in Trenton has about 800 students in its nuclear engineering program. Rubio received his bachelor’s degree here too.
“This program is one that is training people on the needs of the nuclear industry by doing a lot of advanced training and getting them degreed in this portion of it that had to be done traditionally by the plant themselves,” said Thomas Edison State College Asst. Dean of Applied Science and Technology Richard Coe.
In an effort to train even more new hires, PSEG has partnered with Salem Community College to offer a two-year associates program for maintenance technicians.
PSEG already hired 20 graduates from the program over the past four years. The curriculum incorporates PSEG’s accredited training program.
“That gives them a jump start in our full blown training programs once we get here,” Delmar said.
“It actually saves us time, money, and efficiency in training workers to be ready to take the tests they need to take and prepare them to enter the workforce. In the end it’s a benefit to us,” said PSEG Nuclear Simulator Instructor Paul Williams.
PSEG, Salem Community College and a vocational high school joined forces to offer a program for high school students interested in pursuing careers in the nuclear industry.
“For that, students in the high school program earn credits for the community college program and are actually getting a jump start on their career,” Delmar said.
Electrician Cory Webb struggled to find steady work before become a nuclear worker at the Salem County plant.
“You’re gonna have a job, for as long as you want. Everyone needs electricity,” Webb said.
Staffers here insist the industry will only continue to grow. PSEG Nuclear recently extended its operating license for another 20 years and the company’s exploring the possibility of building a new plant.