UK nuclear skills partnership19 March 2015
In September 2014, the Nuclear Industrial Partnership took responsibility for end-to-end skills development across the UK nuclear sector. This partnership will help employers address skills challenges in the sector and deliver the skills element of the UK’s Nuclear Industrial Strategy. Nuclear Engineering asked how it will work.
The vision of the Nuclear Industrial Partnership is to provide strong industry leadership and engagement to implement the "people" element of the UK's Nuclear Industrial Strategy. It is key to delivering the UK's new nuclear programme: the retirement rate for existing workers is expected to increase in 2015 and the need for labour, as well as for experience and expertise, is acute.
The partnership won the right to take the lead in providing nuclear skills from the government's Department for Business, Industry and Skills and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills. The bid was led by Magnox Ltd, but it represented a broad coalition of industry organisations and employers. That included three lead delivery partners (National Skills Academy for Nuclear, the UK National Nuclear Laboratory and training provider Gen2), a strategic partner (Engineering Construction Industry Training Board) and several supporting delivery partners (Hartlepool College, Cogent, Nuclear Energy Skills Alliance partners & the Skills Academy's High Quality Provider Network).
Launching the partnership, Karen Walkden, head of HR at Magnox, said: "Magnox is proud to be the lead employer in the Nuclear Industrial Partnership. The skills programme will provide a valuable contribution to the talent pipeline for the industry and these initiatives would not have happened without the funding. But the Nuclear IP is much more than that, it is about the industry pulling together over the long term, to ensure that the UK is in a strong position to meet the demands of the UK nuclear programme".
The partnership has been partly funded by the government and employers, initially for a two-year period. In that period it is focusing on seven activities addressing skills at different stages.
- STEM workshops. A series of two-day science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) workshops will be held across England, reaching 720 students aged 15 and 16. Workshops will include practical activities, a work placement visit, and interview and job search skills. The first STEM workshop took place in October in Cumbria.
- Apprenticeships. It wants to develop and deliver 50 new apprenticeships across England.
- Traineeships. Traineeships will be made available to 100 trainees aged 16-19 years. The traineeship will include six months of off-job training and a work placement. It will give trainees the skills and understanding to prepare them for work in the nuclear industry.
- Undergraduate summer school. A summer school will be available to 60 undergraduates who have completed two years of an engineering degree. They will have nuclear-related training and work placements.
- Subject matter experts. Technical leadership in the nuclear industry relies on subject matter experts, who are often in highly specialised fields and have advanced - and often unique - technical skills. The number of individuals with these skills is small, they have taken many years to develop the skill sets, and many of them are nearing retirement. The partnership therefore wants to accelerate the development of the next generation of specialists. To do this ten visiting fellows will deliver a tailored programme to five groups of postgraduates over two years, totalling 100 learners. Postgraduates will have contact with industry specialists and in some cases experience of R&D work in a nuclear facility, so they have more "industry-readiness" when they complete their degrees. Finally the partnership will accelerate the development of R&D subject matter experts in industry and academia by supporting visiting roles within a university for industry specialists, and secondments into industry for university staff and postdoctoral researchers.
- Standards and programmes. A range of activities will help employers, especially those in the supply chain, develop their workforce and evaluate their training. That includes: implementing of a Systematic Approach to Training (SAT) model; using tools and techniques from the UK Nuclear Capability Model to assist the development of nuclear professionals; developing standards in four discipline areas each year to be incorporated in an industry competence framework; and providing quality assurance ("kitemarking") for programmes and programme delivery.
- Workforce development. This has two streams. First, supply chain companies receive funding towards disciplinary and nuclear related programmes through a credit-based system linked to other STEM initiatives. Over 2000 learning instances will be delivered under this programme. Secondly, an Engineering Transition Programme is being designed for personnel who have worked in an engineering environment and would like to move to the nuclear industry. The training, currently in development, covers various engineering disciplines, and will give personnel a range of reskilling and upskilling training.