At the young age of 36, Charles Wilson feels like he?s just getting starting walking in his purpose. However, getting there was no easy feat.?
Growing up in Chicago, Wilson joined the Navy right after high school. He did so for one reason: to support his then-wife and their newborn daughter. Little did he know, the military would be the springboard to his career in nuclear energy.?
During his time in the military, Wilson went from being a novice to becoming a certified instructor in the nuclear energy industry. While being on both sides of the spectrum, one thing stuck out to Wilson ? the lack of diversity.
Currently the managing partner at CW Consulting Group, co-founder for The Legacy Initiative and a member of the American Association of Blacks in Energy, Wilson is not only focused on building that pipeline for inner-city kids who have similar interests in his field of study; he also aims to help teens tap into their passions.
Wilson spoke with TNJ.com about the different community initiatives and the career goals he?s currently working on.
TNJ.com: Why is nuclear energy so important?
Charles Wilson: It?s important for the amount of energy that?s produced for the amount of fuel that you need for a nuclear reactor. We?re talking on the order of 10 percent, if not less, the amount of energy produced as compared to what is required for the same amount of oil or gas power generation. That?s what it would take for that same amount of power since there are no carbon emissions for the ozone layer. It?s a very heavily regulated industry. We?re talking about oceans and environments. We have to make sure we maintain wildlife, fish and everything else in addition to the environment.
TNJ.com: Talk a bit about diversity in the ?nuclear? classroom.
C.W.: There is a severe lack of diversity from a race and gender perspective in both the technical and operational sides of the industry. Most of the jobs that exist today in energy are filled predominately by white males; I am one of the few Black males here teaching classrooms of all white males. It?s great that I am aware of the careers (and the financial rewards) that exist in this industry and that I can be that whistle blower for minorities, women and the disabled to, in turn, make them aware.?????
TNJ.com: What are some of the ways you?re helping to serve your community?
C.W.: Exposure! I am a messenger and my message is that I know the language and I?ve done the job. And, there?s no better selling point than someone who can actually say, ?I did it!? My first effort is getting the message into the community, especially those under-represented, underserved communities.
TNJ.com: How has that been working out for you?
C.W.: From 2008 until now, I personally facilitated the curriculum with Deon Clark right by my side. This curriculum taught 4,000 students in Chicago from sixth to twelfth grades at over 30 schools. There?s this one school called Rich East HS. We came in and offered this curriculum on a weekly basis for an hour and a half each with boys and girls. I taught 50 freshman girls every week. That is an example of us coming in and being ridiculously transparent, so they understand we?re not above or beyond adversity. And when that happens, it allows them to be open and honest and transparent with us, so we can offer them various specific solutions with some of the things they?re faced with.
TNJ.com: Tell me a little about Legacy I3?
C.W.: My former business partner has branched off into Legacy I3, where we take the students under our wing, but now there?s specific training. We had 60 students, and all 60 passed and pipelined into community college; six of those 60 have direct job offers from some of our industry partners. So, now we?ve completed what we wanted to do.
TNJ.com: How do you work with teens in the summer to make sure their passion doesn?t die out or get sidetracked?
C.W.: We offer a summer energy camp where we?ll spend a couple of weeks with students giving them knowledge about the energy industry. There?s also a partnership we?re doing with a group called the Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD). It offers a series of courses featuring energy topics and an introduction about obtaining a career in the field. We also partner with The United Way, which has case managers that are assigned to the students. Part of the issues these students have is that they get distracted. If you?re hungry or fearful of your lights going out, you?re probably not going to pay attention to algebraic functions or your English homework.? So, we have the case management in place and those wraparound services provided by community base organizations, such as The United Way, so that they don?t lose track.