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Shedding Light on Nuclear Recruitment



Neil Beckley, Principal Consultant, talks about the current situation in the nuclear industry and what it will mean for recruitment.

What is the current situation affecting the nuclear industry in the UK?

The UK nuclear industry can be divided into two clear areas; the past, and the future. The former largely originates from the growth of the sector during the 1950’s, when the UK became the first country to open a commercial nuclear power station. However, the typical lifespan of the 20th century built plants is approximately 30-40 years and, subsequently, there is a huge focus in complex decommissioning projects. These projects currently make up around 90% of the technical and engineering job roles we offer.

In 2008 the government announced that it was in the public interest that nuclear power should play a role in the UK’s future energy mix. Consequently five sites have been earmarked for new plants across the UK – Hinkley Point, Sizewell, Wylfa, Oldbury and Moorside. There are three new build groups working on these: EDF Energy, Horizon Nuclear Power and NuGen. The first, EDF Energy, is tasked with constructing and operating its first two power stations at Hinkley Point and Sizewell. Hinkley Point, likely to be the first new build project, with a commissioning target 2023, is currently awaiting EC approval.

Why is the UK sticking with nuclear power?

In the past, nuclear energy has been subject to ‘radiophobic’ media headlines which were both unjustified and misguided. In 2013 a government investigation concluded that the UK will not be able to meet its climate change targets without nuclear new build and if these plants were not built on time (with a target of 2025) it would be nearly impossible for the UK to meet its legally binding carbon reduction targets. Nuclear is lower-carbon than solar energy and measures similarly to wind energy. Not only that, but nuclear power is safe, provides excellent value and experiences an ever-decreasing rate of downtime which outperforms all renewable sources.

What is required in the nuclear industry?

Skills! It is estimated that the total number of workers on Hinkley Point for example, could reach as high as 25,000. The skills shortage across both decommissioning and new build is especially apparent within engineering disciplines – structural, civil, mechanical, electrical, process and chemical. We have senior-level candidates and seen recent investment through graduate schemes but the scarcity is within the 3–10 year experience levels. This is equally the level of “doers” within the design or construction of a project.

This certainly isn’t unique to the nuclear industry, but the laws in place surrounding sensitive nuclear security protocols mean that where a typical skills shortage could be resolved through hiring international contractors, this isn’t immediately feasible. Extensive background checks and a qualified working history are required of people seeking to move into the sector, no matter how skilled the contractor may be.

What is being done to solve the skills shortage?

To rectify skill shortages employers have the options to invest in youth with graduate schemes, retrain candidates from other sectors with transferable skills and to import candidates from other countries. We have seen an increase in graduate program intakes across major engineering businesses and engineers for example, are moving into the nuclear sector from similarly technically complex environments such as oil and gas and petrochemical.

Remuneration?

The most common salary band is between £41,000-£60,000, although about one quarter receive more than £80,000 a year and 6% more than £150,000. There is, however, evidence of a gender pay gap with only 12% of women earning between £61,000 and £80,000 compared with 16% of men, although this also reflects the lack of women in specialist and senior roles.

 

How can Anderselite help?

Anderselite works with the leading nuclear engineering consultants and contractors within the sector. Our team has specialist market knowledge through experience and understanding that allows clients and candidates to be serviced quickly, efficiently and ultimately with what they want. What we like to call ‘Right First Time’.

Our technology of real-time salary reports, video interviewing and access to the latest recruitment technologies ensures we can provide consultative advice based on factual data and time-effective recruitment techniques suited to the 24/7 workplace.

If you would like to get in touch to discuss anything further, please don’t hesitate to contact me on LinkedIn or via email on Neil.Beckley@anderselite.com.

Neil Beckley

Principal Consultant – Nuclear – Manchester Office

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