Nswc philadelphia hosts puerto rican co-op students while university rebuilds gas in back and stomach

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PHILADELPHIA (NNS) — When Tony Morales watched Hurricane Maria devastate his hometown of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, last September, he knew he had to help. Morales, a 35-year employee of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA)in Philadelphia, helped launch a special co-op initiative for students affected by the hurricane.

Morales and other Naval Surface Warfare Center Philadelphia Division (NSWCPD) staff acted quickly to get students to Philadelphia and encouraged other warfare centers to also participate in the initiative. The goal was to interest future engineers in a career with NAVSEA, while also helping the students.

As a result of this NSWC initiative, Gonzales Pascual is working under Morales as a co-op in Philadelphia Division’s Wastewater ISE branch. She’s providing technical support in the calibration of oil content monitors (OCM). This work gives her engineering experience and the opportunity to earn OCM calibration certificates – which makes her a more valuable contributor to the team.

NSWCPD is currently hosting 10 co-op students: four are mechanical engineers, four are electrical engineers, one is a computer engineer, and is one chemical engineer. The students will be here from February to July, through the summer semester. All the students must have a minimum 3.0 GPA in their program and all have at least some school left in their 172 credit hour 5-year degrees.

The program’s goal is to be mutually beneficial for both the co-op students and for the warfare centers. The students are getting valuable experience and the warfare centers are gaining diversity and the perspective of young engineering minds.

Philadelphia has been actively recruiting Puerto Rican students for many years and has built a strong connection to the University of Puerto Rico. One goal of the program is for the co-op students to tell other students about NAVSEA and interest them in employment opportunities here.

The co-op coordinators acted swiftly to get the students to Philadelphia and get them onboarded as quickly as possible; a process that can take six months was accomplished in only a few weeks. Several other warfare center divisions are planning to bring their co-op students on for the summer term.

Although the process was rushed, the students received help coming from Puerto Rico and getting settled in. NSWCPD assisted the students with coordinating living arrangements and several engineers personally pooled money to help the students buy furniture. All of this would have been difficult for the students to coordinate given the communication challenges the island was facing.

"My experience with NSWCPD has been really great. I am learning a lot, and I get to experience real engineering work," Vilanova-Del Valle explained. "Half of my job involves a lot of technical and hands-on work, and the other half involves a lot of paperwork and resource management."

Morales has been instrumental in the recruitment of Puerto Ricans since he started as one of the first Hispanic engineers hired by NAVSEA in 1982. Morales feels initiatives like this are important to create a more diverse workforce at NSWCPD.