New nuclear colleges to harness the power of skills training

Posted on 13 Feb 2014 by Tim Brown

Britain’s next generation of nuclear power plants will be able to call on a new high-tech further education college to train their workforce.

Skills and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock set out the plans during a speech late last month, which legislated to make technical vocational training a high quality education path that matched academic routes.

According to the Government, the college will support the industrial strategy for nuclear, developed by Government and industry ‘to seize the opportunities for economic growth in the nuclear industry’.

Nuclear new build in the UK is forecast to generate up to 40,000 jobs in the sector at its peak, but employers are currently reporting skills shortages – particularly in engineering. Tackling this skills gap is one of the actions to be taken forward through a focussed Skills Delivery Plan led by the Nuclear Energy Skills Alliance. An elite nuclear college will provide skilled labour to meet those needs.

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The minister unveiled his intention to open a new elite college jointly funded by Government and the nuclear industry that would provide high level technical skills training for the nuclear power sector. He also laid out plans to develop a software engineering college to respond to the needs of the information technology sector.

It is intended that the new colleges will make use of cutting edge technology and state-of-the-art equipment to deliver programmes designed specifically for the next generation of nuclear power or software design. They will also build relationships with a network of affiliated facilities, including existing colleges, private training providers and HE institutions. Learners from across the country will have opportunities to train and the colleges will give learners the opportunity to develop skills for a long term career by responding directly to the needs of the growing nuclear and software industries.

“A new generation of industry-led elite colleges will give our workforce the right skills to lead the way in both nuclear and software,” said Skills and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock. “The growing nuclear sector offers vital opportunities for highly skilled workers and we must make sure that the UK is at the forefront of this growing industry.

“These new colleges will drive up rigour and quality in our skills system, making sure it is responsive to the needs of employers, giving us the edge in the global race.”

Humphrey Cadoux-Hudson, Manager Director of EDF Energy New Nuclear Build said: “[The] announcement of a proposed elite college for nuclear skills is an important step forward for the UK and its nuclear future.

“The college would offer quality technical vocational training and a route to higher education qualifications in a nuclear industry which is growing here in the UK and around the world.

“EDF Energy has a long and successful track record of working with further and higher education colleges to develop the skills it needs in its existing and planned nuclear power stations. This initiative will help generate jobs and skills, allowing the UK to benefit fully from the massive investment being made in new nuclear power.“

The plans form part of the UK’s industrial strategy for nuclear and for the information economy which enable the UK to make the most of opportunities for economic growth in these areas. It covers the whole of the nuclear market – new build, waste management and decommissioning, fuel cycle services, operations and maintenance.

Over the next two decades it is forecast that globally there will be £930 billion investment in building new reactors and £250 billion in decommissioning those that are coming off line.

The announcement comes just weeks after the Government unveiled plans to create a new college to support the engineering skills needed for the new High Speed Rail project, and demonstrates that the Government is serious about ensuring that both the existing and future UK workforce have the advanced technical skills needed for the country’s future economic stability and growth.