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Nuclear report calls for major skills development to support new build

31 March 2010

Job creation on the scale of three London Olympics would be generated by a significant nuclear new build programme. Thousands of training opportunities, new apprenticeships and new jobs will be needed in the construction, manufacturing, operation and maintenance of anticipated stations over the next 15 years, says a report by Cogent Sector Skills Council.  Up to 30,000 new jobs could be created in an ambitious building programme.

Next Generation: Skills for New Build Nuclear, published on 31st March, focuses on UK skills capacity and capability to deliver a new build programme up to 2025.  The report analyses the workforce required to build six twin nuclear reactor stations capable of generating 16 GWe (16 billion Watts electricity) - enough to supply 80% of current household electricity demands - by 2025.

1,000 new apprentices each year: The research shows that new build on this scale would require between 110,000-140,000 person years of skilled nuclear work - the equivalent employment requirement of three 2012 Olympics. This translates into a demand for around 1,000 new apprentices and 1,000 new STEM, (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) graduates, throughout the civil nuclear industry and supply chain, each year to 2025.

UK can lead global nuclear renaissance: With over 44,000 people currently working in the civil nuclear industry and with 50 years of nuclear experience, the report shows that the UK is well placed to develop goods and services in support of the global nuclear renaissance if we can build on existing skills and identify and acquire new ones.

Skills risk register: The new build nuclear programme demands critical skills in engineering, project management, high integrity welding and safety compliance, among the thousands of new opportunities, and one of the key recommendations of the Next Generation report is to establish a skills risk register to monitor the supply of critical skills.

HE and research skills: Higher level skills and research capacity are noted as essential elements of new build and the report recommends collaboration between industry and skills bodies, funding councils and the new Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre to focus MSc and PhD programmes.

Accreditation of safe working: Workforce mobility is a critical factor in complex and multi-site engineering and construction projects, so the report recommends that sector skills bodies and new build industries align skills accreditation schemes to ensure safe and efficient working on nuclear licensed sites. The Skills Academy’s Nuclear Skills Passport will be key to this activity, and is being supported by industry as ‘highly desirable’ in supply chain tenders.

Backing Apprenticeships and Foundation Degrees: Having identified the potential requirement for a substantial apprentice and graduate intake each year, Cogent’s report calls for industry to create and support apprenticeships and for Government to prioritise funding for them. The report also recommends further joint industry and Government support for nuclear Foundation Degrees.
The report is the second in the Renaissance Nuclear Skills series following 2009’s Power People: The Civil Nuclear Workforce.

The research is the product of collaboration across the Nuclear Energy Skills Alliance, which comprises The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills; the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, and the four skills bodies: Cogent Sector Skills Council, The National Skills Academy for Nuclear, The Engineering Construction Industry Training Board, and Construction Skills.

The report is published at a time when nuclear power provides 70% of the UK’s low carbon electricity, a figure that will drop as older stations come off-line. The Government has made clear its policy to include nuclear power as part of the trinity of low-carbon alongside renewable energy and clean fossil fuels. “Filling the low-carbon electricity gap, whatever the source, is compounded by the prospect of a switch to electric-powered transport.”

Further Education and Skills Minister Kevin Brennan said:
"One year on from our New Industry New Jobs commitment to drive growth in new sectors, we are continuing to invest in the skills and markets that are so vital to the UK's economy."By co-funding apprenticeships with employers we are proving that we understand what needs to be done and giving thousands of people the chance to get into a new career in a new industry."

David Kidney, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change said:
“We’ve made a commitment to go low-carbon and there’s no turning back. We are going to need people with the right skills to make this happen.  “We need scientists, engineers and technicians to develop and run the new nuclear plants of the future. That’s why we’ve committed to support 1,000 apprenticeships a year in the nuclear energy sector if the demand from industry is there.

“I also want to ensure that people know that these low-carbon career opportunities will be out there. This report from Cogent will be vital towards the development of our skills strategy. I want to hear from more people about how the Government can work with them and other key players to give people the skills to cut our carbon dioxide emissions and secure our energy supplies.”

Cogent’s Director of Science and Research, Dr Brian Murphy said the research “identifies the critical skills for tomorrow’s UK nuclear renaissance today. It is the best intelligence of the skills bodies who have formed the Nuclear Energy Skills Alliance. The Nuclear Energy Skills Alliance is committed to maintaining the momentum on skills. But most importantly, if the collaboration of the employers through this work is a measure of the will for nuclear to succeed, then the future is optimistic, if challenging.”

Chair of the Nuclear Energy Alliance Steering Group and Chief Executive of the National Skills Academy for Nuclear Jean Llewellyn said: “This report is of fundamental importance in clarifying the future skills needs of this dynamic sector. The National Skills Academy for Nuclear will continue to work with our employer members to address the recommendations of the report. Developments such as the Nuclear Skills Passport will be of fundamental importance in ensuring workforce mobility and in demonstrating excellence across the breadth of the nuclear industry.”

Chris Ball, director of nuclear, Atkins, commented: “It is hugely encouraging to see how quickly government, skills bodies, academia and industry are starting to work together. Government is clearly leading the way on policy and enabling actions to facilitate the new build programme.

Academia is benefitting from the labour market intelligence, co-ordination and facilitation provided by Cogent and the National Skills Academy for Nuclear, and industry is investing heavily in anticipation of the demand finally arriving. A prime example of this investment is Atkins’ recent partnership with The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) through our training academy which will provide accredited, university-standard courses to help industry to overcome the much talked about skills challenge.”


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