National Apprenticeship Week 2023

Meet the apprentices

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There are over 1,700 apprentices learning their trade in UK civil nuclear and to mark National Apprenticeship Week 2023, a selection of them from across the NIA membership offer a snapshot into what they do and why they chose nuclear.

This year’s theme – ‘Skills for Life’ – is very fitting for the nuclear industry, which prides itself on training apprentices and setting them up for life-long careers in the sector. Scroll down to learn more about nuclear apprentices.

Anna Gates - Hinkley Point C

Civil Engineering Degree Apprentice, Environment Team

“I was inspired to become an engineer while studying for my A-levels in physics, geography, and maths. A civil engineer spoke in one our school assembles, and hearing about his career left me wanting more.

I found the perfect course for me – a Civil Engineering Degree Apprenticeship at Hinkley Point C, the project to build a nuclear power station in Somerset. Soon after, I found myself in the middle of one of Europe’s largest construction sites, learning from some of the UK’s top civil engineers.

Once operational, Hinkley Point C will be key in helping the UK kick its dependency on fossil fuels. I’m passionate about sustainability – so I love that I’m using engineering to help the planet.

The apprenticeship has helped me grow in confidence. It helps that everyone on site loves speaking to the apprentices, sharing their knowledge and expertise. I’ve also become a pro in time management – juggling university deadlines and training on-site.

The course means I’ve got my foot on the career ladder already. By the time I graduate, I’ll have a degree and 5 years of work experience. I’m contributing to a lasting piece of national infrastructure – that’s what civil engineering is all about. Bring on the future!”

Suzy Jones – Sizewell B

Control & Instrumentation Technician

Suzy graduated from the EDF maintenance and engineering apprenticeship this year and has started a full time job at Sizewell B.

 “I chose an apprenticeship because I wanted to take a practical approach to engineering, and the thought of university didn’t really appeal to me. I enjoyed the two years away from home, because you are learning but also surrounded by friends.

“It was then useful that we had the next two years to put the learning to practice at Sizewell B. I would recommend an apprenticeship, it’s a great way to get qualifications while earning.”

Joshua Wilkins - Sizewell C

Joshua Wilkins, Sizewell C Project Controls Apprentice

“I am a project controls apprentice for Sizewell C. It’s a three-year apprenticeship which I have started at Hinkley Point C in Somerset and will complete in Suffolk with the Sizewell C project. I feel really proud to work in an industry that’s fighting climate change and making a real difference in helping Britain cut its emissions and protect the planet.

Working in project controls means that I get to combine two of my favourite things – IT and engineering. I keep track of our schedule and the tasks we have to do. That’s a pretty big role in a project like this where we are building a new nuclear power station which will make such a big contribution to meeting net zero targets.

We literally have thousands of tasks to complete to deliver the UK’s first new nuclear power station in a generation and I am proud to be doing my bit. Building new nuclear stations on time is crucial in the battle against climate change as we move away from fossil fuels.

When I am not working at Hinkley Point C I am studying at the National College for Nuclear. I am learning core processes such as estimating, risk management, cost engineering and honing my IT skills. I am now in the second year of my apprenticeship and next year I am looking forward to returning home to Suffolk to work on Sizewell C.”

Annabella Sweeney - Jacobs

Project Controls Apprentice

“I chose to pursue a job in STEAM as I know they are highly-skilled jobs that will allow me to have the best possible insight into my future job as a Project Controller.

I chose the route of an apprenticeship as I believe it will benefit me more in the future and I will learn more valuable skills along the way that will help me perform better in the working environment. I chose the Project Controls route as I was interested in what it involved and had to offer. It stood out to me when I was looking through all the different apprenticeships because it involves many different skills that are important in the working environment.

I enjoy a lot of different things about my apprenticeship. Jacobs provides a vast amount of support and makes everyone feel welcome, which is important to me as this encourages me to learn more new skills.

My most interesting moment at Jacobs so far is being given the opportunity to take control of two projects and look after them myself to make sure everything is updated  monthly. I find this very interesting as it is not something I have done before so it has been good to learn new skills in Excel documents.

I really enjoy being a part of the Jacobs family as I have been made to feel so welcome and there is support all around me. At the beginning, I was shy to speak up but everyone has made me feel so welcome, so I am able to ask for help and will receive knowledgeable advice from people around me. Overall, it is a very good company to work for as they will help and support you throughout your time with Jacobs.”

Kerry Jackson - National Nuclear Laboratory

Scientific Apprentice 

“The scientific apprenticeship scheme has allowed me to begin my career in the nuclear industry. I work with advanced technologies and help contribute to the nuclear clean up. I have learned first-hand from my immediate team members, some of whom are internationally recognised in their fields. Now I have finished my apprenticeship I feel a great sense of achievement, as I have developed my technical knowledge and now network with many experienced professionals.

Working within the radiochemistry team, alongside having support from the early careers team has given me the confidence to push myself and further my career. I am confident that I am now able to progress to more technical roles and study further education.

I have supported the Early Careers team to promote and engage Women in Nuclear initiatives, and mentored new recruits within my team.”

Click here to find out more about apprenticeships at the National Nuclear Laboratory

Charlotte Wilkes - UKAEA

Level 6 Apprenticeship, Mechanical Engineering

A RACE and UKAEA apprentice on placement in JET Operations 

“I didn’t realise it was possible to study for a degree through an apprenticeship. As soon as I did, it really was a no brainer! So many people have degrees now, but the work experience gained through my apprenticeship alongside a degree will really help to boost my career in the future.

When I started to look at mechanical engineering, I realised that it was really important to me to find a job that related to my ethics and morals.  At UKAEA, we are all working together to achieve fusion energy, which promises safe and sustainable low carbon energy.  Fusion really does have the potential to change the future for generations to come making UKAEA the perfect place to work – a job that I love that also fits with my morals.

Becoming an apprentice has broadened my view.  When I first joined RACE and UKAEA, I thought there would be an expectation to know everything, but I now accept that it is okay not to know everything. It is more important to ask questions when you are unsure as it provides an opportunity to learn.  Working in industry also means that I’m able to relate my study to what I do and can ensure it is relevant.  Being surrounded by such experienced and knowledgeable colleagues has inspired me in many ways – especially knowing they were once in my shoes and have worked their way up to become who they are today.”

Click here to find out more about UKAEA apprenticeships.

Dawson Tanner - Nuclear Waste Services

Quality Control Technician Apprentice

How have you progressed on your apprenticeship journey so far?

I have completed multiple tasks set by my mentor and their team and learnt to develop my own personal skills to another level by being given the training necessary such as:

  • Chartered Quality Institute Stakeholder communication training
  • Human Performance tools (best practice techniques)

I have had multiple overviews of the different sections that operate within the business. I have found myself becoming an all-round better human due to me being constantly in contact with the team, showed the correct standards and culture.

 What are the benefits of completing an apprenticeship?

The benefits of completing apprenticeship are that you do not only gain a qualification, but you gain the skills and knowledge to further excel your desired career path.

You gain a wider scope for networking with different sections of the business due to being involved with most of them. You develop the correct culture and characteristics that the company desires.

 What do you enjoy about working at Nuclear Waste Services?

I enjoy the vast amount of opportunity to progress your career further, together with the open and honest feedback and communication. I feel valued.

What are your aspirations for the future?

My aspirations for the future are to confidently complete my apprenticeship. I will also hopefully secure a full-time job within Nuclear Waste Services, move into the Quality Control section of the business, succeed in completing a weld-inspection course. I’m keen to help the business in any ways suitable.

What advice would you give to other individuals who may be considering applying for an apprenticeship?

Don’t be afraid to take the leap and go for it.

Personally, I was employed in a well paid job prior to starting with the organisation but soon came to realise that I couldn’t progress any further, so I decided to take a large pay decrease in order to gain a qualification, experience and knowledge. You must see the bigger picture. It was short-term loss for a long-term gain.

Click here to find out more about NDA Group Apprenticeships.

Sarah Clarke - Nuclear Waste Services

Health, Safety, and Environment technician Apprentice

How have you progressed on your apprenticeship journey so far?

I have progressed smoothly into my apprenticeship so far due to the support given.

What are the benefits of completing an apprenticeship?

One benefit would be that you can get both practical, real work experience whilst still getting the qualifications you need for the job. Another benefit is that it allows you to imagine yourself in the role you aspire to achieve, as you are working in the company alongside people doing the role or similar roles. One other benefit would be that you can gain knowledge and experience from other people in the workplace which will help you determine if the career is something that you want to pursue.

What do you enjoy about working at Nuclear Waste Services?

One reason I enjoy working at Nuclear Waste Services is the atmosphere and people. It always offers support and a healthy working environment. Another reason why I enjoy working here is because of the environment. The site is home to protected wildlife which is cared for and considered shown when construction is taking place. This is important because it benefits the environment side of my apprenticeship.

What are your aspirations for the future?

I’m currently unclear about my aspirations for the future, however, they would probably be to continue with health and safety and try securing a job within Nuclear Waste Services after my apprenticeship.

What advice would you give to other individuals who may be considering applying for an apprenticeship?

One piece of advice would be do as much research on the company before and during the apprenticeship. Another would be to organise as much as possible and ask any questions that you want answers for

Luke Turner - Cavendish Nuclear

“My apprenticeship is in mechanical design and on a day to day basis I use various software’s to produce 2D & 3D drawings/models, solve complex problems and design their implementation onto site. Depending which project I’m working on, these can be related to decommissioning or new builds.

“My apprenticeship has given me the knowledge and skills to assist in the global nuclear effort. I have helped to remove hazardous items from sites across the UK, helping to create a safe and secure world. I have opportunities to get involved in new builds such as Hinkley point C as well as international work.”

Rebecca Girvan - Cavendish Nuclear

Mechanical Design Apprentice

“I am currently on the third year of my degree apprenticeship as a Process Engineer. My typical day involves completing technical calculations and documents as well as overseeing projects being delivered on site. With this comes many problem solving challenges and working with people from a wide range of backgrounds in order to overcome them.

“The nuclear industry is an exciting sector to be part of, I am faced with unique challenges on a daily basis and able to work alongside highly knowledgeable people, constantly learning about the industry. There are plenty of amazing career opportunities to take advantage of, working on different stages of a nuclear reactor’s lifetime, as well having a part in protecting the environment and providing a renewable energy source.”

Kaream Pennant - Nuvia

EC&I Design Apprentice

“I have been an EC&I Design Apprentice at NUVIA since 2018. I have continued my academic studies to HNC level, whilst having the opportunities to improve my skills through work which has pushed and widened my perspective of the business and industry as a whole. From overpacking and waste characterisation at a remediation site, to engineering substantiation.

“I have worked on many projects in many roles in, and outside, of my chosen specialism. I have enjoyed participating in volunteer work, including going into schools to encourage children, from diverse backgrounds, to enter STEM careers, and also fundraising for charities like the Macmillan. I have enjoyed helping to make a difference in my local area and on a more national scale.”

Alex Corcoran - Nuvia

Mechanical Design Apprentice➡ Degree➡ MSc

“I joined NUVIA in 2012 as a Mechanical Design Apprentice. Since then, I have had the opportunity to work on a variety of challenging and interesting nuclear projects for a range of clients across Europe. I have been continuously learning since I started, whether that be on projects or through further education which NUVIA has sponsored, including my BEng (Hons) and MSc in Mechanical Engineering.

“My efforts have been recognised; since I started, I’ve progressed from Apprentice to Mechanical Designer in 2016, and to Mechanical Design Engineer in 2020. I am looking forward to the exciting future-prospects that NUVIA UK has to offer and to progressing in my career as an engineer.”

Rachel Gleaves, Sellafield Ltd

Control Systems Apprentice

I’m a third-year control systems degree apprentice (left) carrying out retrievals work to support high hazard reduction on legacy ponds.  My work involves improving and implementing modifications to programable electronic systems, working amongst experienced engineers supporting the retrieval processes.

I carry out weekly maintenance tasks on plant. Prior to joining my current team, I trained across a range of operational technologies, ranging from legacy to leading edge systems across the company. Alongside my training, I attend college once a week, studying for a degree in Plant Engineering, enhancing my technical knowledge of operations carried out at Sellafield.

The unique challenges and complex problems the nuclear industry faces have always intrigued me. Sellafield Ltd work towards creating a clean and safe environment for future generations, and as a member of its local community, I knew here is where I wanted to focus my career.

I recently represented Sellafield Ltd at the Nuclear Week in Parliament. This gave me the chance to promote some of the amazing opportunities that the nuclear industry provides for young people. The event, hosted by Charlotte Nichols MP, allowed us to engage with MPs, industry representatives and young nuclear workers from across the country, discussing our journeys as starters in the industry and some of the exciting projects we have been involved with.