UK sets out plan for boosting nuclear workforce

16 May 2024

A new nuclear industry skills 'roadmap' - based on sector collaboration, investment in training, leadership development and improving diversity - has been launched in the UK aimed at attracting and retaining the sector's workforce of the future.

Left to right, Minister for Affordability and Skills Amanda Solloway; Simon Bollom, chair of the Nuclear Skills Taskforce; and Minister for Defence Procurement at the Ministry of Defence, James Cartlidge at the signing of the Nuclear Skills Charter (Image: NSDG)

The government-backed National Nuclear Strategic Plan for Skills - launched with a charter signing - underpins the goal of doubling the number of new apprenticeships by 2026 and recruiting 40,000 new jobs by 2030 - double the current hiring rate for the sector.

Devised by the Nuclear Skills Taskforce - formed last year - the plan is designed to increase the industry's available workforce by almost 50% and promote the nuclear sector as an attractive, long-term career choice.

The plan's activities will be delivered by the Nuclear Skills Delivery Group (NSDG), supporting a nuclear programme which aims to maintain national defence, increase energy resilience, promote economic prosperity and help achieve the net-zero target by 2050. NSDG - formerly the Nuclear Skills Strategy Group - is the body leading nuclear industry skills for both the civil and defence sectors.

Specific activities in the plan include: doubling apprentice numbers in the nuclear sector, supporting trades - including welding, electrical and engineering roles - by 2025-26; doubling graduate numbers entering the nuclear workforce in the same period, supported by sponsorship and bursary schemes, while increasing the quantity of PhDs to ensure the highest level of technical skills and knowledge; forming a future leaders scheme to develop tomorrow's senior personnel; upskilling initiatives for people joining the industry sector mid-career; recruiting talent via a national communications campaign - Destination Nuclear, which was launched earlier this year - that outlines the wide variety of career opportunities available in the sector; creating regional hubs to increase workforce capacity and capability tailored to local requirements; increasing training capacity for the sector; and widening employee diversity and inclusion.

"The skills challenge can be met only if the sector works together to deepen and broaden the skills base," said NSDG Nuclear Skills Programme Director Beccy Pleasant. "That is why the Skills Plan captures specific themes and projects the industry is now committed to. And this includes finding ways to align skills across the civil and nuclear defence sectors.

"From today, boosting recruitment relevant to the sector’s regional needs, broadening the intake across education levels, upskilling existing industry professionals and increasing diversity will build a motivated nuclear workforce - vital to the industry's long-term capability and the UK's national and energy security," she added.

Minister for Affordability and Skills at the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, Amanda Solloway, said: "We are delivering the biggest expansion to nuclear power in 70 years and need a homegrown pool of talent that will fuel our nuclear ambitions. The nuclear industry offers highly skilled, well-paid jobs at the cutting-edge of the clean energy transition that can level up rural communities across the country and today's charter puts us and the industry working together to achieve that."

Signatories of the charter will work together through the NSDG to provide visible and active leadership and collaborate more to attract workers into the sector. Industry leaders will also seek to deepen the workforce pool by increasing employment opportunities and boosting investment to retain skilled workers.

Gareth Headdock, Chief Science and Technology Officer at National Nuclear Laboratory - one of the signatories to the charter - said: "The government has set out a very supportive policy environment to enable the industry to develop advanced nuclear technology to deliver our civil and defence programmes. To achieve this goal, we need the right people, in the right place, at the right time - with the right skills. We need to build a talent pipeline across the entire nuclear cycle – recruiting talented people to become the next generation of experts across the breadth of skills required."

In January, the British government launched a roadmap for reaching its ambition for the UK to have 24 GWe of nuclear generating capacity by 2050, representing about 25% of the country's projected electricity demand. It said the Civil Nuclear Roadmap "outlines plans for the biggest expansion of nuclear power for 70 years to reduce electricity bills, support thousands of jobs and improve UK energy security - including exploring building a major new power station and investing in advanced nuclear fuel production".

Nuclear's share of energy in the UK is currently about 16%, however all but one of its existing reactors are due to be retired by 2030.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News