It is a pleasure to be invited here today to open the Energy Centre at Bridgwater College.
The transition to a low carbon economy presents a tremendous opportunity. There is great potential for low carbon growth in the south west not least in the nuclear industry.
Energy companies have plans to install up to 16GW of new nuclear capacity in the UK by 2025. And with this the possibility of 30,000 new jobs.
However we are very aware that 70% of the current UK nuclear workforce is set to retire by 2025 and realise the challenges and skills gaps that this will bring to an industry set to grow.
Government is committed to do what it can to ensure that the UK has the appropriate skilled workforce to deliver nuclear new build, as well as that needed for operation and decommissioning.
We must ensure that lack of skills does not provide any barrier or discouragement to investment but we also want to ensure that UK workers are well placed to take a full role in the nuclear resurgence.
The nuclear industry already employs over 6,000 people in the south west - the second largest in the UK. The planned new nuclear build activity in this region means that we’ll need to see an influx of people into the sector - from apprentices to technicians to graduates with the appropriate skills and competences.
The work here at the Energy Centre will be crucial in delivering this. It great to see the South West flagship delivery centre of the National Skills Academy for Nuclear coming to fruition with the strong support of leading players in the industry.
The future of skills development is in the strong relationships between Industry, academia and Skills Bodies. We are already seeing progress here and I look forward to watching this grow further.
If current industry plans come to fruition - and I must stress here that these must go through the necessary planning and regulatory processes - nuclear power in the South West alone will require the same amount of manpower as the London Olympics. But there will be a greater emphasis on higher skilled jobs and the need to understand the technology.
Of course we want the local population to train to access these high skilled jobs and to truly benefit from the nuclear resurgence in this region. Development for nuclear power in this area must go through the necessary planning and regulatory processes
I am under no illusions about the challenges we will face but I am heartened by the work that is being done here. We must ensure that the sector is attractive to young people - male and female - so that a career in the nuclear industry becomes an aspiration for those in school, college and at university.
This new centre is a great place to inspire the young and deliver the skills necessary for a career in the industry on their doorstep.