NNSS News

NNSS modifies internship program to allow for telework amid COVID-19 pandemic

virtual internship map
NNSS interns are logging in from 13 different states this summer.

The U.S. Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration’s Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) continues to invest in the future workforce and to grow capabilities within the enterprise by transforming the student programs into a virtual setting.

In 2019, the student program was developed to allow hands-on work experience, mentorship in various disciplines and professional development opportunities for college students. More than 70 students participated in the 12-week program last summer.

This year, more than 70 students were again ready to begin their summer internship at the NNSS, but amid the COVID-19 pandemic, an in-person internship was no longer feasible. On April 17, the decision to switch the platform to a virtual format was made by the senior leadership team. NNSS management and operating contractor Mission Support & Test Services (MSTS) President Mark Martinez is passionate about engaging students with the NNSS’ national security mission and made the final decision to switch to a virtual format as opposed to canceling the program. "Our success depends upon talented people who are interested in our national security missions as well as living in Las Vegas or near one of our satellite locations," said Martinez. "After experiencing tremendous success with our 2019 intern program, I couldn’t see us taking a step backward in this opportunity to develop talent for our future."

The NNSS acknowledged the challenges associated with a virtual internship; however, the Talent Acquisition department worked with many other directorates to transform the program from an in-person internship to being completely virtual in just five short weeks.

The team prepped for a summer never experienced before by developing a fully functional collaboration program website, where all program information is saved and easily accessible remotely; converting all professional development sessions to online presentations; working with the Information Technology department to ensure that students would be able to have remote access; collaborating with other departments; and creating online chatrooms so students could communicate with one another. One chatroom feature includes having a member of the senior leadership team in it at all times to ensure students are able to actively engage with leadership throughout the program.

Now six weeks into the virtual program, the NNSS continues to offer students a robust experience that is personable, interactive and informative in order to prepare them for a professional career within the enterprise.

Olivia Dockery, a returning civil engineering intern, shares her experience about how the program has helped her adapt to change: "Transitioning from an in-person to virtual internship has presented its challenges, but the NNSS has provided me a variety of resources that allow me to feel confident in the work that I am doing and comfortable communicating with others in the enterprise."

Ryan Jensen, a returning mechanical engineering intern, added, "I feel the virtual internship program has been going very well thanks to the NNSS’ effort to make sure it was a smooth transition for each of us. We've been able to gain real-world knowledge, experience and teamwork skills all from a virtual environment. I think I can speak for all of the interns in saying that we are very thankful to have been given this opportunity."

These students, along with more than 70 other students, began teleworking May 27, logging in from 13 different states: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.

For more information about NNSS Student Programs, visit https://www.nnss.gov/pages/NFO/MSTSStudentPrograms.html.