New employee orientation
One of the New Employee Orientation classes during 2022 at Y-12’s New Hope Center.
Starting any new job is overwhelming, but starting work at a nuclear weapons production site is even more so. Human Resources and Communications led an effort to improve the onboarding experience for new hires at Pantex and Y‑12, with substantial engagement from other organizations. The goal was to create an onboarding experience that empowers employees with a clear understanding of our mission and enables them to contribute to our mission more quickly.
The enhanced orientation program acquaints new employees with goal‑setting, provides intensive employee training with presentations about both sites, and connects each new hire to an organizational ambassador from his or her business area. By the end of orientation, new employees have a deeper understanding of their individual roles in achieving the mission. They also have a clearer organizational picture, familiarity with the Pantex and Y‑12 strategic plans, and continued support through the connection and relationship built with their organizational ambassador.
As an organizational ambassador, Leslie Mathews of Y‑12 Production Operations provides one‑on‑one support to new employees during their first 90 days of employment (and often longer). “I hired in almost 15 years ago,” she said. “I did not get all of this information on day one. It takes lots of time to understand the magnitude of what we do, but with the onboarding structure, new hires have the opportunity to learn so much at the very beginning.”
“The engagement of senior leaders and organizational ambassadors in onboarding has been a game-changer,” said Senior Director of Communications Jason Bohne. “New employees are not only learning how they connect with the mission but are also gaining perspective on our priorities and beginning to build a network of people who can help them be successful in the short term and throughout their careers. Welcoming them and giving them the tools to succeed helps make us all successful.”
Making sure new employees are introduced to how they fit in our national security mission falls to Recruitment and Placement Specialists Zuleyma Carruba-Rogel and Jay Aspray.
“We’re always asking ourselves, ‘Is this the best that we can be?’ That constant reflection and adjustment lets us know we’re on the path to success,” Carruba-Rogel said. “When we see and experience the community that new hires are creating; when they respond to content and tell us they feel welcome; or when they talk about what a great experience onboarding was for them — that’s when we get to reap the fruit of those labors.”
Pantex Deputy Site Manager Kenny Steward said, “In our sites’ histories, we have rarely had to compete with a broad range of employers to attract talent to Pantex and Y‑12. Orientation is one of the opportunities we have to show new employees that they made the right choice and have joined a team they can be proud of for the rest of their careers. It’s our new employees’ introduction to life and culture in a high‑hazard, nuclear production environment, allowing us to set the stage for tying each employee to our critical nuclear deterrent mission and ensuring they know the dramatic value they add to the important work done at our sites.”
We Are Mission Success: Richard Dumas and Samuel Sturkie
Take 5 minutes and learn about CNS’s Richard Dumas (left) and Samuel Sturkie (right), Pantex production technicians. All views and opinions are the employees’ own and do not necessarily reflect those of CNS.
The Pantex Production Optimization (PPO) effort was commissioned to lead and establish a path forward to deliver and maximize our production throughout this year and into the future. Since its launch, the PPO team has made significant progress in tackling actions to maximize the current weapons workload deliverables. In a recent CNS Connect from Chief Operating Officer Colby Yeary, he said, “We’ve gone from having significant concerns regarding our ability to deliver to reinstating customer confidence and demonstrating that our processes will help us continue to deliver in the future.”
A large part of the progress is attributed to the work of the production technicians, the employees who do the actual hands-on work to ensure the nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, and effective. Production technicians have a wide variety of responsibilities, including assembling/disassembling nuclear weapons, testing components associated with the stockpile, keeping accurate records, operating equipment, performing repairs, and more. Pantex has made it a priority to hire more than 200 PTs by fall 2022 to improve production output and deliver planned future weapons work.
Samuel Sturkie and Richard Dumas are two production technicians representing opposite ends of the nuclear security experience spectrum. Sturkie has worked with Pantex for 16 years, while Dumas is relatively new to Pantex with 18 months of experience serving as a production technician. Prior to employment with Pantex, Sturkie was a machine operator at a local Amarillo container board facility. Dumas had spent a couple years working on the road building gas plants, and many years managing a local family-owned BBQ restaurant in Amarillo. Both provide a unique perspective to what it means to be a Pantexan and be part of the PPO efforts.
What daily task lets you know you’re helping achieve the CNS mission?
Dumas: I think a great thing is getting to meet some of the pilots that use the things we create here at Pantex and see that they are excited about what we are accomplishing here. They come in and thank us, when we should be thanking them for putting their lives at risk by doing what they are doing. We get to go home every day and spend time with friends and family. I believe all service members past and present need to be thanked.
Sturkie: I would say stand up/stand down is the greatest indicator. It’s like a real-time report of how all the pieces are fitting together and what page everybody is on.
As an employee, what do you want to be remembered for?
Dumas: I wouldn’t really say that I want to be remembered for anything specific; I believe that if you come to work and put forth your best effort and teamwork that it will show on its own when you are gone.
Sturkie: Probably my packaging skills. I want someone to look at a MKQ (Mark Quality) part and say, “the guy who packaged this part really cared.”
Are you doing what you envisioned as a young adult?
Dumas: I never imagined I would have an opportunity to work here at Pantex, but things work in mysterious ways. And hope that I can make it another 20 years and retire here in Amarillo.
Sturkie: Yes, ever since I wrote a research paper on nuclear winter in high school, I became interested in doing something in the nuclear field. My dad worked at Pantex for almost 30 years, so growing up I always wanted to work at the place that my dad worked.
What work advice would you offer someone who is new to Pantex?
Dumas: I would say be patient. You aren’t going to know and pick up everything the second you walk in the door. And for new PTs, trust in your team as in your trainers. Senior PTs, trust your core team guys. Most of these guys have been here a while and are very knowledgeable about what we are doing; if you have questions ask them. This is probably a very different job than what a lot of us came from, and it takes some adjusting. But these guys are very helpful at helping you when needed.
Sturkie: If you have a new idea or a different way of doing things, don’t be shy; bring it up.
What’s your favorite outside-of-work activity and why?
Dumas: I enjoy golfing, cooking, and traveling. These are all things that make me happy. Golf for the outside fresh air, cooking for an inside or out (BBQ), and traveling get to see a lot of history all over.
Sturkie: I would have to say playing video games. They help me relax and recharge my batteries, so I can come back to work refreshed.
Pantexans attend UW Legacy Induction
Pantex Site Manager Jeff Yarbrough and Deputy Site Manager Kenny Steward were recently in attendance at the inauguration of the lifetime givers into the newly founded Community Chest Society of the United Way. This elite society is comprised of corporate donors and individual donors who have given $25,000 and above. Since 1996, as a company Pantex has donated over $1 million to United Way of Amarillo and Canyon. This number does not reflect the millions of dollars that have also been donated by employees over those years, and several Pantexans were also in attendance to be honored for their individual contributions.
Pantex donates to Discovery Center
On June 29, senior director for Pantex Engineering, Joe Papp visited Don Harrington Discovery Center to get a firsthand look at how the center is using a $10,000 donation from Pantex.
$5,000 of the funds went towards helping sponsor STEM Summer Camps. The center runs week-long camps all summer long, and this particular week’s camp was “Make It or Break It - Robots, buildings, and roller coasters.” Students answered questions such as, how do we build them? What can be built to withstand an earthquake? What does it take to destroy a well-built house? They tested ‘Make It or Break It’ abilities through engineering, coding, and brilliant building ideas.
“Because of Pantex support, DHDC has been able to enhance our STEM programming, which has been great for this week’s camp,” DHDC Deputy Director Regina Ralston said.
“I am so impressed with the cubits and how the campers can create with them,” Papp said.
The remaining $5,000 from the donation will be used for the “Discover Through Time Life and Earth Science Exhibit.” This exhibit will highlight the various animals and plants of the region, correlating them to the progression of ecological development throughout our rich history. It will feature breakout spaces with learning opportunities such as reading nooks, hands-on exploration activities, and a life science observation lab.
Summer interns arrive to work, learn at Pantex and Y-12
Senior Director of Communications Jason Bohne explains facets of the Y-12 mission during a site tour for new summer interns.
The CNS summer interns have arrived to begin learning and working in organizations across Pantex and Y-12. A total of 52 interns, 35 at Y-12 and 17 at Pantex, began their summer with an orientation. Cristy Landrum, who coordinates the internship program at Y-12, said the interns represent 20 universities and 11 states, ranging from Florida to New Mexico. Of course, most hail from Texas and Tennessee, 18 and 25, respectively.
Chief Human Resources Officer Diane Grooms told the Y-12 interns that they should feel proud to have been selected from among 1,000 applicants. The internship program is integral to CNS’s recruitment efforts.
“The goal here is to see how you do,” Grooms said. “If you like us and we like you, we hope to hire you one day.”
Grooms asked the group, who got up at 4 a.m. that day, to get ready for the start of orientation at 6 a.m.
Alexander, a junior studying nuclear engineering at the University of Tennessee, raised his hand, saying he plans for the worst and needed a coffee, which drew a laugh from the group. At 28, he already holds a degree in political science from the University of Michigan, but wants to focus on nonproliferation.
“Policy and history are interesting, but this is more of a hands-on experience,” Alexander said.
Joshua, a senior studying finance and management at West Texas A&M University, is joining Pantex’s Operations Support in Project Controls. He said his duties align closely to his studies, thanks to careful matching by his Pantex internship coordinator Zuleyma Carruba-Rogel.
“Executing the internship program requires yearlong coordination efforts, which all come together when those students take their first seat at New Employee Orientation,” she said. “Their enthusiasm, inquisitiveness, and eagerness to learn is infectious.”
Joshua said he has worked several unrelated jobs to help pay for college and is happy his internship role mirrors his studies.
“I’m most excited about gaining an entirely new, professional skill set,” Johsua said.
Riley will be a senior at the University of Tennessee studying business analytics. Her father also works at Y-12. Her internship in Occupational Health Services might not seem like a good match. However, OHS's Gary Hall and Karen Lacey jumped on the chance to have Riley analyze CNS's COVID-19 database to study now the sites dealt with the pandemic. While making sure Riley’s experience is enriching, Hall said a secondary goal of the program is producing value for the organizations.
“I’m really looking forward to getting into the data and being able to showcase how well OHS has been handling Y-12’s employees’ safety during the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.