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CFCC to Train Next Generation of Nuclear Techs

By Megan Williams

Castle Hayne, NC – GE Nuclear wants to draw its future technicians from the boys, and girls, next door.

The company has donated $175,000 to Cape Fear Community College's foundation to set up a nuclear technician training program. The donation is intended to cover start-up costs and a specialized instructor.

Students in the technician program would have to first apply to a GE subsidiary, which would pay their tuition and a stipend. In return, graduates must stay with the company for at least two years after getting their degrees. The program will include hands-on work at GE Nuclear's training facility in San Jose, California.

GE Nuclear President Andy White points out that partnering with CFCC addresses a growing labor shortage as the first wave of nuclear technicians starts to retire.

"We need a whole new generation of people coming up from university, from the community colleges, from other places to come in to really ramp up today," White said at Monday's check presentation ceremony.

Lieutenant Governor Beverly Perdue joined White and CFCC president Eric McKeithan for the announcement. Looking back, she noted it took a while to convince Community Colleges to adopt company-specific programs. But now, Perdue said, they help sell the state to relocating corporations.

"It's not part of any incentive, economic development package," Perdue admitted, "but I believe it's the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae, that this is what makes the whole thing work, holds the glue together."

The program is currently in something of a limbo. Although seventy students are already taking preliminary courses toward their technician's certification, the program itself still needs official approval from the Community College system. College officials say they expect that approval shortly and hope to have nuclear technichian courses available by next spring.