Two AC students land apprenticeships at Los Alamos National Lab

Two Amarillo College machining students have been accepted into a prestigious career-building apprenticeship program and will spend the next two years honing their craft in northern New Mexico at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

Joseph Meraz, an advanced machining major, and Emma Womack, who obtained both welding and basic machining credentials at AC, each are beneficiaries of AC’s inclusion in a distinguished Consortium, an advantageous grant, and their own wherewithal.

“These two students are both exceptional representatives of AC and I am proud of their dedication to their ongoing learning in their chosen careers,” Dr. Linda Muñoz, AC’s dean of technical education, said. “Their futures are really bright.”

The grant AC received is through the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Minority Serving Institution Partnership Program. It enabled AC to send four students and two faculty to a showcase in April at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History in Albuquerque. There they made individual presentations and met leaders representing different Consortium partners.

The Growing STEMS Consortium, with Texas Tech University as the lead institution, includes, among others, AC, Sandia and Los Alamos National Labs, and Pantex. The Consortium is designed to train the next generation of engineers for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) NNSA workforce.

AC’s workforce focus within the Consortium is in the fields of machining, welding, instrumentation, electromechanical, and non-destructive testing and evaluation.

While at the showcase, Meraz and Womack each received offers to participate in summer internships, and now they both are additionally in line to launch their professional careers as full apprentices with the DOE.

“I’m totally excited about this,” said Meraz. “I thought after graduating from Amarillo College that I would probably start out working someplace local, a small shop maybe, and work my way up from there.

“I never expected anything like starting out at Los Alamos, and I’m so thankful to the faculty and leadership at (AC’s) East Campus for preparing me and expressing so much enthusiasm for my success.”

Following his showcase presentation, Meraz, a graduate of Randall High School, was offered a 10-week internship at LANL, which he is just now finishing up and which he has parlayed into the two-year apprenticeship that begins this fall.

Womack, meanwhile, not only was tabbed for a LANL apprenticeship, but she was offered a summer internship at New Mexico Tech, another Consortium partner, and spent nine weeks there helping conduct a study of traumatic brain injuries.

“I didn’t see that coming when I decided to study welding and machining at AC, that’s for sure,” said Womack, a 2016 graduate of Bushland High School. “I mean, I was working in the Department of Chemical Engineering, in their lab, as part of a brain-research team and it was incredible.

“Now I’m headed to Los Alamos for an apprenticeship where I can become a machining journeyman, and it’s as much due to my professors at AC as anyone. I can’t brag about them enough; they want all their students to succeed, and I’m so thankful for the opportunities they’ve helped me realize.”

Both Meraz and Womack expressed particular appreciation to Robert Gustin, instructor of machine technology, while Womack said she also appreciated the positive impact provided by Gregory Harrison, instructor of welding. And they both acknowledged the encouragement and support of Dr. Muñoz, their dean.