Fermilab announces new high school student technician apprenticeship and lab engineering innovation support

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Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory has announced two new initiatives to foster innovation and growth in the engineering and technical communities of the lab. The Office of High Energy Physics, within the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, has granted Fermilab, a DOE laboratory, $2 million to fund these two initiatives over the next five years.

Chief Engineer Mayling Wong-Squires states, “The lab is grateful for the support from the Office of High Energy Physics with the recognition of creative ways to develop the engineering and technical staff.”

The first initiative is a pilot apprenticeship program called Technician Education for Careers out of High School. TECHS will strengthen recruitment of the laboratory’s technicians who are critically important to the lab’s operations and future projects. The apprenticeship will be a talent incubator to nurture future lab technicians by offering summer apprenticeships to local high school students who will be trained on basic electrical and mechanical skills while introducing them to the array of careers at Fermilab.

Fermilab technician Marino Alvarado

Fermilab technician Marino Alvarado works on components for a Proton Improvement Plan-II cryomodule. Photo: Ryan Postel, Fermilab

Students will work at Fermilab for 10 weeks for two consecutive summers. They will be mentored by lab technicians and program teachers on projects that support Fermilab’s scientific mission. Upon completion of the program, students will be qualified and encouraged to apply for entry-level technician positions upon graduation from high school.

Spokespeople for the program will begin reaching out to area schools in the upcoming school year with applications opening in late 2024.

The second initiative is the Fermilab Innovative Design Engineering to Accelerate Solutions program, in which the lab’s engineers are encouraged to pursue new ideas and designs, simple or complex, that can lead to innovative solutions in areas of research and development. IDEAS will support various endeavors that include small-scale prototypes using microgrants, ideas for patents or copyrights, and proposals for the DOE Early Career Research Program.

Rachel Pfaff

Rachel Pfaff has been a technician in the radio frequency department and enjoys the diverse work in her role at Fermilab. Photo: Rachel Pfaff, Fermilab

Lab Director Lia Merminga said, “This timely initiative strengthens technology innovation, a cornerstone of our mission at Fermilab, and enables our engineers to expand the lab’s work in its core capabilities, especially the newest ones: Mechanical Engineering and Systems Engineering.”

More information about each program can be found at the TECHS and IDEAS websites.

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.