DEVELOPING PRACTICAL SKILLS AND COMPETENCIES THROUGH A FEDERAL INTERNSHIP
The U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board (Board) is a small Federal independent agency. The Board evaluates the technical and scientific validity of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Nuclear Waste Policy Act activities. It provides expert technical advice on nuclear waste management to Congress and the Secretary of Energy. The President appoints the Board’s 11 members from a list of candidates provided by the National Academy of Sciences. The Academy selects the candidates solely based on distinguished professional service and eminence in a field of science or engineering. A small group of senior professional staff support the part-time Board members. The Board and its staff have expertise in geology, materials science, nuclear engineering, and social sciences.
The Board recognizes the limited opportunities for developing employable young professionals in the nuclear waste field. In the fall of 2013, the Board created a summer student internship program for undergraduate and graduate students in geology, and other relevant disciplines. The Board exposes the intern to the technical issues with management and disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste in a geological repository. The Board expects the intern to review a topic that is relevant to the Board’s mission. The Board designed the internship, from the interview to the final presentation, to develop practical skills and competencies through independent and high-level work. The Board gave the intern the responsibility to review information on a disposal issue and to develop a well-supported briefing for the entire agency. The ability to review technical and scientific information in a critical but unbiased manner was essential for completion of the intern’s project. Thinking, and communicating, logically was a key skill. Effective communication through careful consideration of diction in speech and writing was an important skill the intern developed further. Developing practical skills and competencies can increase a student’s employability. However, intangibles, like initiative and independence, are the factors that can influence hiring and ultimately, a student’s success in the workforce.