As the country prepares for a renaissance of the nuclear power industry, one local organization is providing a way to prepare laborers for work in the plants.
Local Union 226 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades on Wednesday debuted its Nantel Computer Training Lab, which provides access to tests needed to work in a nuclear power facility. The tests are part of a nationwide Internet-based system -- the National Academy for Nuclear Training e-Learning system -- that provides free courses in areas such as plant access and radiation protection.
The lab is open to anyone, regardless of occupation or union affiliation, trying to find work in a nuclear power facility, Susie Friel, director of the lab, said. The tests don't train for specific jobs, but rather ensure that a worker knows the safety and regulatory procedures required to work in the plant, she said.
"These are safety rules and regulations you have to know so you don't contaminate yourself or anyone else when you're working in the plant," Friel said.
She said the lab is funded through a $107,000 grant provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The nine computer stations were donated by the Tennessee Valley Authority, and chairs, desks and cubicles were donated by Unum, she said.
Tommy Rymer, business representative for the local, said his goal for the lab is to provide an opportunity for people to gain access to jobs in a growing field.
"We want to make this available to everyone," he said. "What we're about is helping the community, and we want to do our part to power America."
Rymer said the local union has been helping to train and prepare workers for the Nantel tests for about a year, and about 60 people have passed the tests and been put to work on job sites.
Workers officially started using the lab in October, but have been taking advantage of the service "sporadically for some time," Friel said.
"What this will do is help create jobs and put money back into the economy," she said. "That's my goal, and I feel like this is helping. More and more people are calling each day asking for work, and this is opening that opportunity to them."