Five new nuclear sites with as many as 12 new reactors are set to be built in the UK over the next decade. Does the sector have the required pool of skills to deliver the government’s ambitions? By 2030, the government’s goal is to increase nuclear’s share of the mix from 21 per cent to 35 per cent. The next decade will therefore be a significant one, as new-build projects receive approval and some ageing plants are decommissioned. This will no doubt create opportunities for the industry’s supply chain, with steel and concrete specialists in particular set to benefit. Manufacturers of high-pressure seals, pumps and turbine rotors will be among those that see increased demand. But what about the thousands of jobs this shift in the UK’s energy mix will create – is there a strong enough pool of talent available, supplemented by a pipeline of budding graduates? The Home Office list of occupations that are in short supply features no fewer than 14 roles directly related to nuclear specialisms. Employers trying to fill one of these roles are able to sponsor overseas candidates to come over if they are unable find a suitable candidate in the UK, or if a suitable overseas applicant does not have the right to work in the UK. This avenue can help address any immediate skills shortages facing the nuclear sector but it is not a viable long-term solution, says Nuclear Skills Strategy Group head of skills strategy Beccy Pleasant. “If there was complete freedom of movement, we could just bring people in from other countries to fill some of those needs,” she says. “What we’re saying is [things are not] as flexible as we might like, so it makes sense to take steps to grow our own.” This need to develop homegrown skills is why the NSSG was established, taking over responsibility from the Nuclear Industry Council’s skills workstream as the lead strategic skills forum for the sector. It is made up of representatives from employers, trade bodies and government departments responsible for nuclear development. With as many as 12 reactors at varying stages of planning and development across five different sites – Hinkley, Sizewell, Wylfa, Oldbury and Moorside – the NSSG has a sizeable task ahead of it.
Construction 19th June 2018 read more »