LOS ALAMOS, N.M. – Local students Miquela Casados and Zac Martinez recently received associate degrees after graduating from N3B Los Alamos’ Nuclear Operator Apprenticeship Program — a two-year work-study curriculum in partnership with Northern New Mexico College (NNMC). Casados and Martinez plan to continue their education while working at N3B, the prime contractor for the Department of Energy’s Environmental Management Field Office, to support the legacy environmental cleanup mission at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

“This program expanded my thinking about what I can accomplish,” said Casados, now a fully qualified nuclear operator. “I’m excited to learn even more about this field.”

The Nuclear Operator Apprenticeship Program incorporates online classes, coursework at NNMC’s Española campus and on-the-job training in Los Alamos. Apprentices work as full-time N3B employees, receiving a competitive salary with full benefits while attending classes. Upon successful completion of the program, they receive an associate degree in Nuclear Operations Technology.

As nuclear operators, Casados and Martinez monitor safety compliance, support daily operations and manage inspections of LANL’s legacy hazardous and radioactive waste that N3B manages and prepares for off-site shipment to permanent disposal facilities.

Casados enrolled in the apprenticeship program after considering a career in nursing. She admitted the curriculum was demanding.

“Going to school and working full time was challenging, but the N3B supervisors were careful to arrange our work schedules so we had time for studying and classes,” Casados said.

Martinez was pursuing a business degree when he heard about the apprenticeship program. He felt it would be an ideal opportunity to explore an alternate career.

“I was treated as a colleague by N3B employees at all levels,” Martinez said. “I’ll remember that feeling as I interact with new employees at N3B or wherever my career takes me.”

In addition to the Nuclear Operator Apprenticeship Program, N3B partners with the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos to sponsor a Radiological Control Technician (RCT) Boot Camp — an intensive 16-week program taught by N3B training specialists and fully qualified employees.

“Our goal is to prepare Northern New Mexicans for local, high-paying jobs and careers in applied science so they can continue to live in this beautiful region,” said Pam Peterson, N3B’s training specialist who manages the apprenticeship program.

“Northern New Mexico College is pleased with our partnership with N3B,” said Dr. Bárbara M. Medina, NNMC president. “We’re excited for our students to benefit from this program and begin a rewarding career remediating the natural environment around Los Alamos and Northern New Mexico.”

N3B will begin another cycle of the Nuclear Operator Apprenticeship Program in October 2022. Anyone with a high school diploma or equivalent degree and an interest in a career in applied and environmental science can learn more about the opportunity here.

Local students Zac Martinez and Miquela Casados received associate degrees and full-time jobs contributing to N3B’s legacy environmental cleanup mission at Los Alamos National Laboratory after completing a Nuclear Operator Apprenticeship Program in partnership with Northern New Mexico College. Pictured left to right: Mark Russell, N3B’s acting director of training; Zac Martinez; Miquela Casados; and Pam Peterson, N3B’s training specialist.