The 100 Diverse Corporate Leaders in STEM blog series features a new business executive Monday-Friday and the exemplary work his or her company is doing to support 21st century STEM learning and workforce development- particularly for women, minorities and under-represented groups. Learn more and download the whole copy at STEMConnector.org/100Diverse. Follow the conversation on social media using #100STEMLeaders. Today's Diverse Corporate Leader is Sharon Elliott, vice president, human resources at AREVA.
Vice President, Human Resources
AREVA provides its customers with solutions for low-carbon power generation in North America and all over the world. Its nearly 5,000 U.S. and Canadian employees work every day to make AREVA a responsible industrial player helping to supply ever cleaner, safer and more economical energy to the greatest number of people. As a forward-looking energy company, AREVA recognizes the importance of investing in STEM education and supporting diversity as a driver of innovation and prosperity, critical to both our company and communities.
Sharon on Diversity and STEM
Why is STEM Education/workforce development critical to the future of our nation?
STEM subjects are the foundation for 21st century industries, and clean, safe, reliable energy is inextricably linked to the sustainable prosperity of the American economy. Advanced manufacturing, farming, and transportation – from the water that sustains our human and industrial existence, to the revitalization of our physical and the growth of our digital infrastructures, energy is a critical ingredient and a STEM-educated workforce will increasingly drive the American innovation engine. To secure our future, America’s investment in advancing the economic vitality of our communities must reflect the increasing role of STEM disciplines as the foundation for the technologies being developed to address our country’s needs and the world’s most critical challenges. From our research and development, to ongoing improvements in our operational efficiency, to our clean energy and cyber-security solutions, AREVA supports a strategic vision that links STEM education, workforce development, and talent management, leveraging the cross-sector, cross-industry collaboration upon which our nation’s continued growth and security depends.
How has your corporation coordinated investments in education with future workforce needs?
AREVA is a founding member of the PRODUCED in Virginia Program, which started in 2007 and provides Lynchburg students with the opportunity to complete engineering degrees through CVCC and the University of Virginia. While in school, sponsored students get on the job experience through internships and receive a full-time position upon graduating. The CVCC Nuclear Technology Program combines traditional academic courses, highly focused technology courses, hands-on learning experience, and on-the-job training. Technicians support field activities during outage seasons. During non-outage seasons, technicians take CVCC courses and benefit from AREVA technical training. Technicians receive college credit for a portion of their AREVA training. Technicians receive an Associate’s Degree in Nuclear Support Technologies. Sixty-six employees have graduated from the program.
Sweetbriar College’s Explore Engineering Program provides college immersion opportunities for high school girls while introducing them to engineering design. In addition to sponsoring the program, for the past two years, AREVA has hosted participants at our Technical Training Center, providing an introduction to nuclear energy and helping the girls to better understand STEM career opportunities in and beyond the energy industry.
In 2013, the XLR8 STEM Academy in Lynchburg became Virginia’s 16th STEM Academy as the culmination of a partnership between the state and regional governments, CVCC, regional economic development partners, school divisions, and area businesses. A sponsor of the AREVA Technology Center, which houses the academy and a partner in the project since its inception, AREVA proudly helped launch the inaugural mechatronics program in support of regional economic development and to meet future regional workforce needs. Through XLR8, students have the opportunity to work toward a college degree and earn industry certifications to support job-readiness upon completion of the program.
In addition to collaborating with local partners, AREVA employees engage in STEM-related volunteerism and outreach to elementary, middle school, and high school students including activities and workshops related to National Engineer’s Week and National Nuclear Science Week.
How do we encourage students to continue their study of STEM subjects, particularly women and underrepresented minorities?
AREVA is a proud partner of the U.S. Department of Energy Minorities in Energy initiative, and our CEO of North America serves as one of the Ambassadors of the initiative, which is focused on facilitating greater participation from underrepresented minorities in all aspects of the energy sector. We continue to work to further diversify our workforce by partnering with university chapters of diverse engineering societies including the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, the National Society of Black Engineers, and the Society of Women Engineers.
We need to both encourage and support women and underrepresented minorities by increasing awareness of the application of STEM subjects, developing greater understanding of career paths, and then ensuring that there are parents, teachers, mentors, and other supporters to help them get there. We inspire students when we show them how STEM can make a difference in their communities and support exciting career opportunities. Our effectiveness depends not only on robust curriculum, internships and apprenticeships, but also ensuring that we work toward creating more inclusive cultures when it comes to STEM classrooms and workplaces.