A Cogent skills assessment

Posted on 31 Mar 2010 by The Manufacturer

Last week’s Budget made a clear statement that nuclear power was going to play a significant role in helping Britain achieve its green ambitions and provide low carbon power to the nation.

Government have also now recognised that next generation nuclear power provides a massive opportunity for job creation, skills development and the strategic positioning of the UK as a leader in high value advanced technology. This realisation has been facilitated by Sector Skills Council, Cogent who today released Next Generation, an audit of current skills provisions and a trajectory for the development up to 2025 in order to support competitive excellence in the global nuclear industry.

According to Cogent’s report and the scenario for growth it anticipates, the level of job creation in the civil nuclear industry and supporting supply chain could be on the scale of three London Olympics. Thousands of training opportunities, new apprenticeships and new jobs will be needed in the construction, manufacturing, operation and maintenance of anticipated stations over the next 15 years.

Next Generation: Skills for New Build Nuclear, projects the building of six new nuclear reactor stations and specifies the skills need that these will create. The stations are predicted to be capable of generating 16 GWe (16 billion Watts) of electricity – enough to supply 80% of current household electricity demands – by 2025, a target which sets out a tough climb for civil nuclear supporters as nuclear currently provides just 70% of the UKs low carbon energy alone.

Cogent’s report is a clear representation of the work to be done in order to realise government targets for growth and economic stability. This clarity is key since although the UK has considerable experience in the civil nuclear industry (with a current associated workforce of 44,000) recent years have seen it decline in contrast to EU countries like Germany and France. If the UK is to catch up and compete it must carve a niche for itself with focused skills development. This will require the nurture of STEM subjects and the creation of new customised qualifications and standards. It will also require a canny appreciation of how to exploit new technologies in order to ensure that the UKs nuclear offering is truly “next generation” and avoid association with the poor public image of old nuclear.

In the light of this image challenge the Cogent report also pushes for rigorous safety and skills accreditation schemes both to ensure efficiency and standardised working across the complex multi-site engineering and construction agenda, and to ensure total confidence in the capability and professionalism of the workforce. Skills Academy’s Nuclear Skills Passport will be key to this activity, and is being supported by industry as ‘highly desirable’ in supply chain tenders.

Today’s Cogent report is the second in the Renaissance Nuclear Skills series following 2009’s Power People: The Civil Nuclear Workforce. The research is the product of collaboration across the Nuclear Energy Skills Alliance, which comprises The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills; the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, and the four skills bodies: Cogent Sector Skills Council, The National Skills Academy for Nuclear, The Engineering Construction Industry Training Board, and Construction Skills.