Hinkley Point C offers best opportunity yet to get more women into nuclear industry

A new plan to help drive a more diverse workforce into the nuclear sector is being put into place with the hope of attracting younger people and more women into the industry.

Fifty percent of recruits to the nuclear sector need to be female if the UK is to reach the target set by the Government in its Nuclear Sector Deal of women making up 40% of the workforce by 2030.

An ageing workforce also means skills need to be replaced with a more diverse workforce of people from all backgrounds and sectors to fully represent the population.

The current supply chain and opportunities available at such a major project as Hinkley Point C in Somerset are the perfect platform to do this, according to skills experts and will help put the South West at the forefront of the industry worldwide.

Data from Nuclear South West shows that across ten sites in the region, only 13% of the workforce in both civil and defence roles are women. 

Beccy Pleasant, Head of Nuclear Skills for the Nuclear Skills Strategy Group (NSSG) is working to bring a business case for the £1.7m Skills Delivery Plan which aims to ensure UK skill demand from the future nuclear civil and defence programme can be met through a highly skilled and diverse workforce.

“We currently have around 22% of women working in the nuclear sector across all levels, and many fewer at senior levels. That can and should be better.

“We need to excite the next generation and get them thinking more about a career in nuclear. And as an industry, we need to move away from the perception that we only have highly technical roles, or work requiring highly-qualified people with a scientific background. While we need those roles, we also need employees who are skilled in work like cable-pulling and welding, as well as engineers and project managers who might be working in other sectors.”

She will be speaking about the NSSG’s Skills Delivery Plan and her role in developing skills for the future of the industry at the UK’s largest nuclear conference Nuclear South West 2019 #NSW19 which takes place in Somerset on October 2 and 3.

Once of the key objectives of the plan is to develop the ‘NextGen Nuclear’ project – the first of its kind ‘whole sector’ approach to improving outreach and careers activity, to help bridge the gap between the sector and schools and prepare young people for a career in the industry.

When underway, it will provide a digital portal to support the industry, helping to develop enhanced work experience programmes using Virtual and Augmented Reality and looking at new resources for teaching staff.

Beccy, who is also Head of Nuclear Skills Strategy at the Engineering and Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB), believes that we need to work hard to attract people from all backgrounds into the sector, whether that be new build, environmental restoration, or defence. 

“The focus needs to be on schools and teachers to attract more females into studying STEM subjects, but also looking at how we can transition experienced staff in from other sectors. We are working hard with our employees to support people who want to redeploy from declining energy sectors into our roles.”

Beccy will be joined by a host of key, influential speakers at the Nuclear South West Conference including Professor Tom Scott, Director of South West Nuclear Hub, David Redpath, NDA Director, Andy Storer, CEO of NAMRC (Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre) Tom Greatrex, CEO of The Nuclear Industry Association (NIA), Simon Parsons, EDF Energy’s Programme Director at Hinkley Point C and Celine Cudelou, from GIFEN on the French supply chain.

Matt Burley, Nuclear South West Chair said:

“It’s an exciting time for the sector and we are really pleased to be able to bring such an expert panel of speakers together who are right at the forefront of the industry. They will be discussing the current and future prospects for businesses – here in the region and across the UK - who can benefit from the vast opportunities the sector has to offer, from new build like HPC through to decommissioning.”

Nuclear South West aims to establish further opportunities for companies based in the South West, as well as around the UK, to capitalise on the region’s unparalleled strength and potential in the global nuclear industry and build links with overseas companies.

Nuclear South West is a partnership of industry, academic and public sector, set up to champion the South West nuclear industry as the premier destination for investment, innovation and growth.

It is established and supported by the Heart of the South West, West of England and GFirst LEPs, with involvement from public sector and strategic organisations.

Research has shown that there are £50bn worth of opportunities in the nuclear industry within 75 miles of the South West region. The region has the expertise, ambition and vision - as well as a critical mass of thriving businesses - to act as a catalyst to drive economic productivity within the nuclear sector.

Hinkley Point C, the first new nuclear power station in the UK for a generation, will create 25,000 job opportunities, 1,000 apprenticeships and will pump £100m/year into the regional economy.  The South West is also home to the Oldbury nuclear reactors in Gloucestershire, the South West Nuclear Research Hub – a partnership between Bristol and Oxford Universities, the National College for Nuclear, the Somerset Energy Innovation Centre and the Berkeley Green University Technical College.

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