UK seeks to attract 40,000 nuclear recruits with skills plan

Article by Amanda Jasi

THE UK’s National Nuclear Strategic Plan for Skills has launched, outlining how government, industry, and stakeholders can collaborate to double hiring rates and fill 40,000 new jobs by 2030. The plan supports recruitment across the civil and defence sectors, following the government’s 2023 announcement of a “nuclear revival”.

Simon Bollom, chair of the now stood down Nuclear Skills Taskforce which devised the plan, said: “What is clear in a growing sector which is as diverse, innovative, and strategically important as nuclear, is that its success is dependent on the availability of a skilled workforce.

“We need a broad range of people to work in a wide variety of roles, with the right skills to keep the UK safe and energy secure, over multiple decades.”

The government-backed skills plan is designed to increase industry’s available workforce by almost 50% and promote the potential for a long-term career in nuclear. It is structured around four key themes: collaboration across the sector, deepening the workforce pool, investing in the existing workforce, and ensuring long-term leadership and stewardship. Projects under these themes will be delivered by the Nuclear Skills Delivery Group (NSDG).

“The skills challenge can be met only if the sector works together to deepen and broaden the skills base. That is why the Skills Plan captures specific themes and projects the industry is now committed to,” said Beccy Pleasant, nuclear skills programme director for the NSDG.

“Boosting recruitment relevant to the sector’s regional needs, broadening the intake across education levels, upskilling existing industry professionals and increasing diversity will build a motivated nuclear workforce – vital to the industry’s long-term capability and the UK’s national and energy security.”

Luke Hall, minister for skills, apprenticeships, and higher education at the department for education, added: “Whether you are interested in studying for a university degree or getting experience on the job and earning a wage as an apprentice, this skills plan for the nuclear industry shows a clear path forward for boosting our national security, meeting the UK’s energy needs, cutting emissions, and spreading prosperity across the country.”

Adding to the workforce

The NNSPS aims to significantly increase the available talent by boosting apprenticeships and creating more graduate positions, as well as implementing sponsorship and bursary schemes to support STEM students .

The plan also targets quadrupling specialist science and nuclear fission PhDs to ensure that subject matter experts are available in the civil and defence sectors.

Additionally, a national teaching programme will be created to attract and retain industry professionals, allowing them to pass on expert knowledge to students through further education roles.

There will also be work to attract mid-career entrants into nuclear by promoting the sector and roles. Accelerated learning and upskilling opportunities will also be put in place for those joining from other sectors.

The plan is expected to increase the diversity of the talent pool within the nuclear sector, with increased training offering greater opportunities for embedding equality, diversity, and inclusion.

Attracting talent

Forming part of the sector collaboration theme, one action under the skills plan is to recruit talent via a national communications campaign – Destination Nuclear. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of nuclear to the UK and highlight the wide variety of roles available across civil and defence nuclear organisations. Work to recruit mid-career entrants will involve collaboration with Destination Nuclear.

Lynne Matthews, programme lead for Destination Nuclear, said: “Destination Nuclear is a real game-changer. The programme is the first sector-wide communications campaign for nuclear and has provided a focal point to create a national nuclear brand and shorten the journey from attraction to employment.

“Destination Nuclear showcases the wealth of opportunities the sector has to offer. It will help a broader range of people explore and enter a career which is challenging, rewarding, and sustainable – and, importantly, help deliver the UKs nuclear ambition.”

Efforts for sector-wide collaboration will also include creating regional hubs to increase workforce capacity and capability tailored to local requirements.

Committed to the cause

Left to right: Amanda Solloway, Simon Bollom, and James Cartlidge MP at the signing of the Nuclear Skills Charter

The National Nuclear Strategic Plan for Skills was launched with the signing of a charter at Westminster that commits key organisations from across government, industry, and education to grow the UK’s nuclear capability by building a diverse and inclusive workforce to fill the 40,000 jobs target.

It will be delivered by Nuclear Skills Delivery Board and the Nuclear Skills Executive Council, supported by the NSDG’s projects.

Amanda Solloway, minister for affordability and skills at the department for energy security and net zero, said: “We are delivering the biggest expansion to nuclear power in 70 years and need a homegrown pool of talent that will fuel our nuclear ambitions.

“The nuclear industry offers highly skilled, well-paid jobs at the cutting-edge of the clean energy transition that can level up rural communities across the country and [the] charter puts us and the industry working together to achieve that.”

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the trade body Nuclear Industry Association, said: “Re-establishing ourselves as world leaders in nuclear energy gives us an incredible opportunity to supercharge the nuclear skills sector and this roadmap sets out how we achieve that.

“The civil nuclear sector already makes a huge contribution to the UK economy, supporting tens of thousands of jobs across the country and this plan will strengthen our skills base and ensure we recruit enough people and apprentices to help deliver new nuclear for net zero and energy security.

“To achieve that, the whole sector must work together to seize this opportunity.”

The launch of the skills plan follows the government’s announcement in March that it would work with industry to invest at least £763m (US$972m) by 2030 in skills, jobs, and education towards achieving the recruitment goal.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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