UK launches nuclear skills plan

6 December 2016

The UK Nuclear Skills Strategy Group (NSSG) on 1 December launched its Nuclear Skills Strategic Plan to ensure UK nuclear employers can "recruit skilled people at the required rate to meet the sector's ambitious forward programme". The industry-led NSSG comprises employers, government, and trade unions representing both the civil and defence sectors.

The Strategic Plan, launched at Nuclear 2016, the Nuclear Industry Association’s annual conference in London, is based on five themes: meeting the demand; training infrastructure and provision; training standards and qualifications; a clearly defined and NSSG-endorsed skills delivery model; and an agreed nuclear timeline and clarity of demand requirements. It sets out 19 actions including group training arrangements for apprentices and new bursary schemes as well as a national curriculum and regional skills initiatives.

Cogent Skills said the new plan "brings industry and government together, to apply national leadership to a strategic sector of the economy as it embarks upon its much-anticipated renaissance". Cogent Skills is the parent body to the Science Industry Partnership and the Downstream Advisory Council, which like the NSSG are membership forums for their respective sectors.

The Nuclear Workforce Assessment shows that construction of five sites for 16GWe of new generation capacity has a significant impact on total nuclear workforce demand, causing it to rise from 78,000 Full Time Equivalents in 2015 to 111,000 by 2021, Cogent Skills said. In addition, the new build programme will see the UK move from Magnox gas-cooled graphite moderated reactors and advanced gas-cooled reactors to light water reactors. "This places even greater demand for new knowledge and understanding right across the sector," it said.

Fiona Rayment, director for fuel cycle solutions at the National Nuclear Laboratory and chairperson of the NSSG said: "For the first time in decades, the UK is set to build a new fleet of power stations, as part of its continued transition to a low-carbon economy. This means that we will need increased numbers of highly skilled people to build and operate the new fleet, as well as a skilled workforce to continue to run the existing stations, decommission the older ones, safely process nuclear waste and maintain the nuclear defence programme."

Apprenticeship and Skills Minister Robert Halfon noted that the government is investing in high-quality apprenticeships and has pledged nearly GBP80m ($115m) for five new National Colleges, including a National College for Nuclear. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) announced plans to create the new colleges in May. BIS said the National College for Nuclear will have "hubs" in Somerset and Cumbria and receive GBP15m from BIS for the construction of new buildings and equipment. The South West Local Enterprise Partnership is providing GBP3m and Bridgwater College GBP4.5m.



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