Comment: Why nuclear decommissioning needs apprentices

The Nuclear Skills Strategy Group was set up to bring major employers from the industry together to look at the long-term skills need, but building the skills for the industry will take time, so we need to act now, says Corhyn Parr, CEO Nuclear Waste Services.

Oldbury Magnox Nuclear Power Station
Oldbury Magnox Nuclear Power Station - AdobeStock/John Corry

The government has made it clear that it sees the nuclear industry as vital to the country’s future security of energy supply and as an essential part of our net zero ambitions in the UK. And this is starting to attract talented young people into careers in this sector.

Not only is nuclear energy low carbon, but it is also great at creating opportunities for young people searching for an interesting and rewarding long-term career, to work somewhere where they can make a difference.

As our country’s nuclear ambitions develop, alongside plans for the long-term disposal of nuclear waste, there is a real concern over a future skills shortage in the industry as more jobs in nuclear are expected to be created.

There is a real need to attract more young people into the nuclear industry, and more specifically the nuclear Decommissioning sector.

To support this goal, the Nuclear Skills Strategy Group was set up a few years ago to bring major employers from the industry together to look at the long-term skills need. 

But building the required skills for the industry will take time, so we need to act now.

There are fantastic career opportunities in the nuclear waste management sector with clear routes to professional qualifications in such a range of rewarding roles.

Our industry must compete for the very best people in disciplines as varied as engineering, project management, IT, construction trades, radiation protection, environmental monitoring, accountancy, HR, communications, cyber security professionals – the list is virtually endless.

One of our major programmes, the GDF (Geological Disposal Facility), is a nationally significant infrastructure and environmental protection project. And it is clear that a GDF will be asked to dispose of not only legacy waste, but also the waste from the new nuclear programme. Developing a GDF is about acting now for future generations, without it, nuclear waste will need to be maintained and managed for thousands of years coming with ongoing costs and environmental risks.

A GDF is expected to create thousands of jobs. More than 4000 jobs could be created within the first 25 years. To help minimise the skills gap and prepare both the Nuclear Industry and the UK for these future sector plans, we need skilled, knowledgeable, experienced individuals who can support and lead us in the future.

An apprenticeship not only allows an individual to learn technical aspects but also have real life experience working on projects, work with current industry experts and apply their learning in a practical and dynamic setting. If we don’t support and prepare the generation of today, we leave our future at a disadvantage.

Chloe Glaister completed her Level 5 Operations Departmental Management apprenticeship in 2021 and secured a full-time role within the Infrastructure Team, based on the Repository site. She has been shortlisted for the NSAN Advanced Apprentice of the Year honour and will learn if she has won the UK Nuclear Skills Award at a ceremony on Thursday 30 March - Nuclear Waste Services

I clearly remember when I joined the nuclear sector as a graduate and began my journey in this brilliant industry. I particularly remember at all times being encouraged to make the most of the support, encouragement and wisdom of my more senior colleagues. It is something the Nuclear Industry does well – nurturing its young talent to be the leaders of tomorrow.

To ensure demand for skilled individuals is met and to grow subject matter experts within the industry for years to come, we need to invest in building a diverse, adaptable and technically recognised workforce. This can be hugely supported through offering apprenticeship opportunities and highlighting the benefits of what a career within the Nuclear Industry can offer.

At Nuclear Waste Services we have a successful and well-established apprenticeship scheme, that enables apprentices to learn and develop their knowledge, skills and behaviours within a safe, inclusive and supportive environment, surrounded by industry experts.

Investing in early year career’s will help shape future leaders of tomorrow, who will continue the vital work, progress towards the achieving our mission and help keep people and the environment safe for years to come.

Corhyn Parr, CEO Nuclear Waste Services, part of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority group