A $96,000 Workforce Development Training grant has helped Eastern Idaho Technical College (EITC) restart its Radiation Safety Training program. This grant is not only helping the college to resupply the workforce pipeline with qualified technicians needed to replace the aging workforce as they retire but is also making a difference in the lives of the people enrolled in this program by providing a low-cost training option that translates to high wages.
The program, which consists of two semesters in the classroom and an eight-week summer internship, prepares students to become radiation control technicians. The students perform a critical function at the Idaho National Laboratory and other Department of Energy (DOE) sites by monitoring and controlling radiation levels at the worksite to help ensure the safety of the people who work there. “The only other place to offer any kind of radiation safety training in this area is in Washington and they don’t teach the radiation contact information needed at DOE sites,” said Mahlon Heileson, radiation safety program instructor.
“Students who complete this program earn an Intermediate technical certificate and are typically hired as a junior technician making an average of $20-25 per hour,” Heileson said. “There’s real potential for growth and after a year or two on the job, they can get promoted to a senior technician level making $30 or more. After five years on the job, they will be eligible to take the National Registry of Radiation Protection Technologists exam and then can easily make $48 or more.”
Going through this program has made a huge difference for Levi Tessier. Tessier found himself struggling to make ends meet when he was laid off after three years at a cabinet shop. He decided to return to college in hopes of finding a better career so he could become financially stable. He was taking a math class at EITC when his professor suggested he enroll in the radiation safety program.
After only two months into his internship, Tessier was hired at Battelle Energy Alliance as a health physics technician and now makes almost double what he was making at the cabinet shop. “Going through this program was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” Tessier said. “I see my friends struggling financially and I constantly recommend this program to them. A lot of the guys I work with will be retiring soon and there is a huge need for young people to go into this field.”
Local companies affected by the shortage of qualified radiation workers include Idaho National Laboratory (INL), CH2M-WG Idaho, Idaho Treatment Group, Fluor Idaho and Battelle Energy Alliance. Idaho National Laboratory (INL) provided an additional $100,000 in funding as well as expensive supplies and equipment necessary for the training program. Other partners include CH2M-WG Idaho and Idaho Treatment Group who have assisted with instructional support and supervised work experience training.
Idaho employers finance the state’s Workforce Development Training Fund in its entirety through a 3 percent offset of the unemployment insurance tax. For a company to be eligible to receive training funds, it must pay a minimum wage of $12 per hour, provide employer-assisted medical benefits and sell its products or services primarily outside of the region where it is located.
The fund, established in 1996, is one of the state’s most powerful economic development tools available to support new and existing businesses seeking to relocate or expand in Idaho. Funds are awarded for training new workers and/or retraining existing workers with skills necessary for defined economic opportunities and industrial expansion or to provide innovative training solutions to meet industry-specific workforce needs or local workforce challenges.
Learn more about how your business may be able to benefit from the many training resources, hiring incentives and other programs available through the Idaho Department of Labor.
–Kristie Winslow, technical writer
Idaho Department of Labor