Member News

NSSG sets out Updated Strategic Skills Plan

07 December 2018

Two years after its initial, wide-ranging Nuclear Strategic Skills Plan, the Nuclear Skills Strategy Group (NSSG) has launched an Updated Strategic Skills Plan at Nuclear 2018, the Nuclear Industry Association’s (NIA) Annual Conference in London.

The Updated Strategic Skills Plan is set to ensure UK nuclear employers can recruit the highly skilled people they need, at every level and at the required rate, to meet the sector’s ambitious programme in light of the UK’s current nuclear renaissance.

It takes action on one of the five foundations of the Government’s Industrial Strategy – People –  as well as playing an important role in meeting the Clean Growth Grand Challenge.

The Plan embraces power generation, nuclear new build, research and development, decommissioning, defence and waste management.  It reflects a peak workforce demand currently forecast at 100,600 Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) in 2021 – which means the required in-flow is now approximately 7,000 skilled people, per annum, into the sector.

The NSSG is the industry-led strategic group, comprising employers, government and trade unions representing both the civil and defence sectors. This updated Strategic Skills Plan outlines how the ambitious targets set out in the People element of the Nuclear Sector Deal2 will delivered. This in turn supports the implementation of Government’s Modern Industrial Strategy.  It will also maintain a focus on existing programmes1 which are successfully underway. The People targets sit across five key themes:

  1. Enhanced skills leadership: recognition of the NSSG’s leadership in taking forward the critical People agenda, including a new, challenging diversity target of an increase from a 22% female workforce, to 40% by 2030. It also embraces the annual refresh of the NSSG’s annual Nuclear Workforce Assessment the only comprehensive national labour-force data for the nuclear industry in the UK.
  2. Local apprenticeships: a target of 2,000 new starts every year, which is more than double the current apprenticeship intake. This will include maximising the use of the Apprenticeship Levy to deliver additional apprenticeship starts at a local level, supporting regional skills development in key nuclear locations (South West, North West, East and Wales).
  3. Staying at the cutting edge: a target of 72 nuclear related PhDs commenced annually, which will deliver essential high-level skills and nuclear Subject Matter Expertise and support the replacement many of the experts who joined the sector during its last renaissance. And the development of a Level 8 Technical Specialist Apprenticeship Standard, one of the first at the PhD level.
  4. Sector transferability: an extra 20% of entrants coming in from downsizing sectors such as oil and gas, or coal generation: people who bring alternative thinking and skills sets. This will be supported by the development of bespoke programmes that underpin the transitioning between sectors, also including civil and defence, as well as a possible expansion of the National College for Nuclear.
  5. Exciting the next generation about nuclear:  through targeted schools outreach, and industry collaboration in developing and sharing education and careers interventions. This includes dedicated career champions to work with the sector and ensure it is able to offer work experience placements for students in schools, further education and higher education.

 
Minister for Nuclear Richard Harrington said:

 “As we celebrate the one year on mark of our modern Industrial Strategy, it’s right that people are at the heart of our landmark Nuclear Sector Deal. This Updated Nuclear Skills Strategic Plan will ensure that UK nuclear employers can recruit the highly skilled workforce they need at local, regional and national level. We want to increase the number of women in nuclear, double the current apprenticeship intake, and excite the next generation about the future of nuclear in the UK.”

Dr Fiona Rayment, Executive Director Nuclear Innovation and Research Office (NIRO) (National Nuclear Laboratory); Chair Nuclear Skills Strategy Group said:

“Our update reflects new member insights about the changing shape of our growing sector and the skills required, as well as new intelligence, risks and evidence that have arisen since our initial plan. Importantly it fully embraces the joint targets in the Nuclear Sector Deal and brings a renewed focus on diversity, including clear targets.

The Nuclear Sector Deal sets out to boost productivity, reduce costs and grow our domestic and international business. All of this will be delivered through the contribution of our skilled people.  We look forward to ensuring the industry thrives and prospers through the talents of an increasingly diverse workforce.”

Sue Ferns, Deputy General Secretary, Prospect and member of the NSSG said:

“The diversity challenge in nuclear remains significant and deep-rooted. Importantly, the Sector Deal provides a clear focus: Without doubt the 40% female workforce target by 2030 means that organisations must do more and do it quicker.

“It is no longer good enough just to ‘talk the talk’. Leadership at all levels is key and we need to position Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) as a mainstream business agenda item. Greater fairness and transparency will benefit the whole workforce and will benefit the bottom line too. Great teams do not all look or think alike.

“Unions, including my own, want to engage positively to secure progress. Workforce engagement is essential for sustaining success.”

David Vineall, Human Resources Director, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), NSSG Member and Diversity Lead, said:

“The diversity targets we have agreed as part of the Nuclear Sector Deal are challenging and we know will require significant leadership if we are to achieve them. Ultimately, this drive to change the DNA of our sector will ensure we have both the skills we need to innovate and drive increased productivity.

“Above all, this will ensure that everyone is able to benefit from the exciting career opportunities that the nuclear sector can offer, from new build to decommissioning. This will help our sector to look at problems in a new and fresh way, consider alternative ideas and foster the diversity of thought and ideas that leads to change.”

 

Notes on progress – key examples

Since its inception, the NSSG has launched or supported:

  • A nuclear bursary to encourage a wider range of people to upskill for a nuclear career, with £50k being awarded in the last year.
  • A bespoke nuclear recruitment platform for apprentices and graduates  with nearly 20 key nuclear employers now involved www.nucleargateway.co.uk
  • Nuclear Operative and Nuclear Technician Apprenticeship Standards, which augment the three other nuclear-specific Standards already in place. Over this period, 270 apprentices have started work under these new nuclear Apprenticeship Standards – and that is not counting the thousands in the sector who are working to more cross-sectoral Standards in Science, Engineering and other careers.
  • The early development of one of the UK’s first PhD level Apprenticeship Standards for a Nuclear Subject Matter Expert.
  • A pilot programme to reskill and transition skilled personnel from a coal power stations into nuclear, to fill known skill gaps.  If successful, this will be rolled out in other areas.

The Sector Nuclear Deal

The Sector Deal has been developed by the Nuclear Industry Council – whose membership is drawn from across energy, manufacturing, engineering, science and research – in partnership with the government. It is a commitment by the sector to work collectively, with support from government, to deliver on the Industrial Strategy, drive clean growth throughout the economy and make civil nuclear power an integral part of the UK’s energy future.