Nuclear skills: challenges and opportunities – perspective from Nuvia6 September 2017
Mike Roberts, Director of Corporate Services at Nuvia gives insight into nuclear industry skills and recruitment priorities. Is there a ‘skills gap’ in the nuclear sector, and what opportunities are there to address this?
Mike Roberts is a qualified Chartered Accountant with more than 25 years’ experience in Finance and Senior Management positions. He joined Nuvia in 2002 and is now Director of Corporate Services. His remit covers Finance, HR, Assurance, legal and property services, IT and supply chain strategy. Mike’s experience and technical knowledge are vital in setting the company’s strategic direction and in developing a forward-thinking HR strategy for the business.
What is your perspective on the skills situation within the nuclear industry, and how is it changing?
The construction of new nuclear power plants, combined with growing decommissioning activities on the UK’s legacy portfolio has created a major skills shortage in the nuclear industry, across a variety of roles. Compounded by an ageing workforce, the issue has become increasingly important in recent years. The need to act has been recognised by all parties within the industry, and we welcome the recent inclusion of nuclear as one of the key sectors under the government’s Industrial Strategy.
There is clear evidence highlighting skill shortages that the industry will face over the next ten years and encouraging signs that steps are being taken to bridge the gap. However, we remain at the early stages of addressing these. The picture is constantly changing, not least due to demographic, social and political change in the UK, Europe and further afield. These factors are influencing how the industry is organised and affecting how, as the supply chain, we have to prepare ourselves for the skills shortage.
Would you say that there is a ‘skills gap’ in the nuclear sector? What opportunities are there to address this?
Across the whole economy, it is widely recognised that we face skills shortages in Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths (STEM) subjects. This general challenge is heightened further for businesses, like Nuvia, which operate in specialist sectors. It is especially the case in nuclear, which has traditionally demanded that people demonstrate significant practical experience as well as having the right technical capabilities.
Industry and Government are beginning to work together more effectively, taking a holistic approach to developing better systems to address current and identify future skills gaps. Nuvia fully supports this approach and actively contributes to the development of these skills by being a member of the National Skills Academy Nuclear (NSAN) Advisory Board and Standards Advisory Group. Their combined efforts provide feedback directly to the Nuclear Skills Strategy Group (NSSG) on how to deliver the UK nuclear skills strategy.
In addition to the work we do with NSAN, we support numerous schools across the UK in promoting STEM-based subjects and careers. Our Apprentice Scheme and Graduate Programme continue to go from strength to strength and 2017 will see our largest Apprentice intake since we relaunched the scheme in 2008. We will reach our initial target of 5% of employees being recruited through an apprenticeship route in September of this year; naturally, we see this as a starting point and will continue to invest in the scheme to meet our future needs.
I believe that the Government’s Industrial Strategy is a step in the right direction; however, there is much to do now before we start reaping the benefits tomorrow. One area where we can make a difference quickly is to simplify the process for those wanting to enter the nuclear industry.
We have offered to support NSAN in the further development of the Nuclear Training Network – an online portal designed to facilitate easy access to industry skills and training programmes, enabling individuals to develop the skills and knowledge required to work in different sectors.
The Apprentice Levy also presents a huge opportunity to develop the skills of the workforce further.
What issues are you facing when it comes to skills and recruitment?
Flexibility and agility will be key for organisations as we continue to react to a changing world and how people view their work/ life balance.
In an industry with a steadily increasing age profile, it will only take a modest upsurge in the market to accelerate the skills and capacity gap. Apart from the obvious issues of competition for resources and resultant pressures on wage rates, all employers will be looking to differentiate themselves and become an ‘employer of choice’ brand.
We are seeking to address these issues is by taking a long-term view of people development. From engaging with local schools, and STEM activities, through continued investment in our Apprentice Scheme and Graduate Programme we endeavour to build long-term relationships with our people, one that aids retention and reduces turnover rates.
When it comes to recruitment, we take a detailed forward view on our skill needs, aiming to recruit ahead of the curve where feasible to mitigate any gaps on project delivery.
Another important factor is not to compromise on our recruitment decisions. Maintaining standards is essential, and it is much better to wait for the right candidates to supplement our already excellent team.
What are your priorities for training and recruitment over the next 12 months?
We are fortunate to be part of VINCI, the world’s largest integrated concessions and construction group. This provides access to a truly world-class talent pool, as well as allowing us to benefit from a global HR team infrastructure. This allows us to put people at the heart of all we do.
Over the next 12 months, we will continue investing to improve the quality and skills of our employees. Under our annual performance development review, all employees have an opportunity to discuss their personal training needs with line managers. This...allows us to create appropriate tailored training plans for all and in turn improve services we provide to our customers. It will always be a vital ingredient for our continued growth and success.
More generally we’re continuing to expand our Leadership and Line Management programme, with a view to ensuring that we have a sufficiently experienced team, one that supports our succession plans and also guarantees the provision of suitably skilled employees in the right place and at the right time.
Read the full feature with insight from EDF Energy, Nuvia, Westinghouse and others.