News story

Launch of National Nuclear Skills Strategic Plan unites sector on skills as it embarks upon renaissance

NDA welcomes the launch of the Nuclear Skills Strategic Plan to ensure UK nuclear employers, including the supply chain, can recruit skilled people at the required rate to meet the sector’s ambitious forward programme.

Nuclear Skills Strategic Plan
Nuclear Skills Strategic Plan

The Strategic Plan has been launched by Nuclear Skills Strategy Group (NSSG) at “Nuclear 2016”, the Nuclear Industry Association’s (NIA) Annual Conference in London.

The NSSG is the industry-led strategic group, comprising employers, government and trade unions representing both the civil and defence sectors. The NDA have been fundamentally involved in the initiation of the NSSG, sit on the NSSG board, and provide strategic support to the NSSG, which has included the development of the new Strategic Plan. This 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.

The Plan sets out 19 strategic actions, which will subsequently be turned into a detailed action plan. These range from group training arrangements for apprentices and new bursary schemes through to a clear national curriculum and regional skills initiatives. All of this will be underpinned by an agreed timeline of nuclear sector activities and regularly refreshed labour market information on supply and demand.

The Strategic Plan is the result of a wide-ranging analysis of the preparedness, capacity and capability of all those involved in delivering, assessing and accrediting both specialist and generic nuclear skills.

Find out more about the Nuclear Skills Strategic Plan

Dr Fiona Rayment, Director for Fuel Cycle Solutions NNL and Chair 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.

By working in collaboration with government, skills bodies, supporting organisations and employers, the NSSG is confident that the actions as set out will address the underlying issues and allow the sector to gear up for the future, supported by the necessary infrastructure, processes and systems to meet its skills challenge.

Fiona added:

As part of our engagement with the Government, the NSSG is also set to play a prime role on nuclear skills thought leadership, supporting the Government’s developing Industrial Strategy. As the thinking on the Industrial Strategy develops, the NSSG’s Plan will be modified to take into account any new elements of Government thinking.

The Strategic Plan is a successor document to the Government’s Sustaining Our Nuclear Skills, a skills strategy that provided the opportunity to assess the current skills provision across the sector and highlight the progress made. However, the report also made clear the challenges we still face in realising that vision, and threw down something of a gauntlet to industry and partners in education and skills. This new Strategic Plan provides the actions and interventions necessary to address these challenges and is aimed at achieving the vision and objectives set out in the government paper.

The Nuclear Workforce Assessment shows that construction of 5 sites for 16 GWe new generation capacity, has a significant impact on total nuclear workforce demand, causing it to rise from 78,000 Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) in 2015 to 111,000 by 2021. In addition, the new build programme will see the UK move from Magnox gas-cooled graphite moderated reactors and Advanced Cooler Reactors (AGRs) to light water reactors (LWRs). This places even greater demand for new knowledge and understanding right across the sector.

The Plan identifies that the recruitment or transfer of people to meet this demand is not a simple uniform process, when the diversity of skills needed is taken into account. The actions set out consider the skills required to meet the industry’s forward plan, as being in three distinct groups, namely; subject matter experts (a relatively small number of experts with specialist skills which take a long time to acquire), nuclear skills (specialist skills which are only required in the nuclear industry, such as nuclear safety case engineers), and generic skills (ready market skills, principally for the construction activities).

In summary, this Plan presents the strategic actions necessary to satisfy the goals and challenges of the nuclear sector as it embarks on a period of unprecedented growth. The industry is confident that these actions will address the underlying issues and allow employers to recruit at the required rate to meet the forward programme.

Minister for Energy Baroness Neville-Rolfe said:

Nuclear power will play an important role in building a secure, affordable and clean energy system fit for the 21st century.

We welcome industry’s proactive approach to skills, coming together through the NSSG, to develop a strategic plan. This can help to ensure an expert , flexible and mobile workforce in the nuclear sector.

Welsh Government Skills and Science Minister, Julie James said:

I am delighted to welcome today’s publication of the Nuclear Skills Strategy Group’s Strategic Plan. The nuclear sector is strategically important for Wales, providing low carbon energy for homes and businesses while also offering job opportunities in a highly skilled industry. The Welsh Government is committed to developing a suitably skilled workforce for the nuclear sector, and my officials have already been working closely with industry as this Strategic Plan has been developed. We look forward to continuing to support the work of the Nuclear Skills Strategy Group and its partners to deliver upon the Strategic Plan.

National Secretary at Prospect, Gill Wood said:

The TUC has worked with the nuclear industry on producing this Strategic Plan, and we welcome its publication. We have not seen the construction of a nuclear power station in the UK for over 20 years. The new build renaissance, together with an ageing workforce and a projected high demand for both specialist and generic skills across all parts of the nuclear industry, means the sector has to take action on skills now. Indeed the Nuclear Workforce Assessment projections show nuclear workforce demand is forecast to rise from 78,000 full time employees in 2015 to 111,000 by 2021. This Strategy is aimed ensuring fully trained and highly skilled people are available to meet this demand.

Published 1 December 2016