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Energising a nuclear workforce



Balfour Beatty, the leading international infrastructure group, has launched its latest in a series of Public Policy papers, “Building Nuclear Skills: A workforce for the future”.

The paper focuses on the challenges in building the civil nuclear skills base and presenting solutions for both Government and Contractor alike.

Over the next decade, the UK Government has committed to the biggest new nuclear programme outside of China, with three projects currently underway. It is estimated that by 2035, 38% of the country’s energy will come from nuclear power. With some 500 nuclear reactors in planning around the world, Britain has the opportunity to place itself at the forefront of this nuclear revolution and become a leader in the field.

With the UK’s electricity predicted to rise by about a quarter during the next decade, as the networks and transportation links are electrified, the nuclear programme is designed to meet these needs and this integral approach to nuclear energy generation is key to keeping the country connected.

However, as the Paper states, there is a startling skills shortage in the industry – and across construction as a whole. Making the reality of delivering such a transformational energy programme difficult.

Some 50,000 construction jobs are being created through the construction phase alone, while Hinkley Point C in Somerset, Wylfa Newydd in North Wales, and Moorside in Cumbria developed. A further 3,000 permanent roles will be available once the plants are operational. This is in addition to the 65,000 people currently employed across the UK’s civil nuclear sector.

As the industry stands, the skills shortage makes filling these job vacancies extremely challenging.

In order to successfully bridge this gap, a decades-worth of training is required to bring employees up to the specialist level of skill required; and while a significant investment in nuclear skills took place back in the 1990s, nothing since has been implemented to develop the talent required to fill the cyclical nature of nuclear investment. As such, the ageing workforce will reduce by 20% over the next decade as natural retirement age is reached, leaving behind a workforce gap which can only be addressed through on-going investment in training the next generation of engineers.

While the Government acknowledges the issue, through the publication of its Nuclear Skills Strategic Plan and setting up a National College for Nuclear, industry has an important part to play.

In its paper “Building Nuclear Skills: A workforce for the future”, Balfour Beatty sets out five key challenges and solutions to building the civil nuclear skills base:

  • Remote Locations
  • Not developing all necessary skills
  • Brexit
  • Remaining uncertainty about nuclear build
  • Attracting young people into the industry

The full paper is available to read here.

Stephen Tarr, Managing Director Balfour Beatty Major Projects business, said: “The UK is embarking on a nuclear renaissance that will place significant delivery demands on the country’s supply chains. Whilst Government has to provide the policy framework and the confidence the industry needs to invest, the industry in all its guises has a key role to play in training and attracting new talent into the sector. Only by doing this, can we ensure that we have the appropriately skilled staff in place to build new nuclear facilities that will help position the UK as the world-leading expert in the provision of nuclear energy.”

 

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