05 Dec 2019
Planning for our Nuclear Future: forecasting skills demand and supply in a changing landscape
The Nuclear Skills Strategy Group’s (NSSG) 2019 Nuclear Workforce Assessment (NWA), the nuclear sector’s annual forecast of skills supply and demand across the sector through to 2030 and beyond, was recently launched at the Nuclear Industry Association's (NIA) Annual Conference Nuclear 2019.
Thanks to the data supplied by NSSG members it provides the sector with the evidence it needs to develop the key skills interventions designed to deliver the ambitious targets set out in the People element of the Nuclear Sector Deal. It embraces the entirety of the sector including new build, operations, decommissioning, research and defence activities.
Since the previous NWA there has been significant progress in the Nuclear New Build (NNB) arena. However, the findings also reflect that fact that there is currently less clarity on some of the large-scale Nuclear New Build projects featured in the previous Nuclear Workforce Assessment (NWA).1 The report therefore takes a different approach to previous Assessments and models two different nuclear energy output scenarios to consider the impact on future skills needs.
The overall demand is determined by the timeline of all key nuclear events including the decommissioning of existing facilities, development of future technologies, construction of new civil facilities and defence submarine programmes. The forecast data in this summary embraces all of this and looks at 2 scenarios, one based on established programmes underway today, and a second representative scenario that reflects the potential for additional capacity (recognising that new advanced technology routes may become available to augment or supplant conventional reactors).
Scenario 1: Hinkley Point C, Sizewell C and Bradwell B (9 GWe) – 3200 a year inflow in the period to 2025
Scenario 2: which is Scenario 1 plus 3 representative additional reactor groups (18 GWe) – 4800 a year inflow in the period to 2025
By 2030 around 40,000 full time posts will need to be filled for Scenario 1, and 60,000 for Scenario 2.
Jennie Chapman, NSSG Lead on Labour Market Information and Head of Nuclear Skills Alliance EDF Energy said:
“The launch of the Nuclear Sector Deal (NSD) in 2018 was a pivotal moment for the industry. It emphasised the importance of our sector’s role in delivering key themes of the UK’s Industrial Strategy, most notably the ‘Grand Challenge’ of Clean Growth.
“This Assessment provides us with a crucial evidence base to support this ambition. The People and Skills elements of the Nuclear Sector Deal directly support the foundations of the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy. This report shows a sector that will continue to create many thousands of jobs, and together with its wider supply chain, it will continue to bring prosperity to our regions and contribute to UK economic growth.”
Dr Fiona Rayment OBE, NSSG Chair and Director NIRO (NNL) added:
“This newly updated Nuclear Workforce Assessment once again provides a wide-ranging forecast of skills supply and demand across the nuclear sector. More comprehensive than ever, the report also now starts to explore how we recruit for roles in our sector.
“While the UK’s pathway to a low carbon and sustainable energy system is yet to be fully mapped out, a continued role for nuclear, large and small scale, is still very much in the mix, creating both job opportunities and fantastic long term careers. It is also evident that planning our nuclear future must now be about meeting the demand through a rebalancing of our sector’s workforce, so that it is more diverse in people, and, in turn thought.”
Overall Workforce demand
The overall forecast demand, is based on 2 scenarios; to meet both replacement demand and expansion from new projects, an inflow of new workers is required of approximately:
3200 a year for Scenario 1 in the period to 2025
4800 a year for Scenario 2 in the period to 2025
Recruitment to meet demand varies with both time and the occupations required to deliver the planned activities. Business and Project Management occur earlier in the activity cycle, while Engineering and Trades increase in line with the peak in construction.
The report shows that today’s nuclear workforce is dispersed across sites around the UK, but with a heavy concentration in the Northwest of England. Construction of Hinkley Point C, Sizewell C, and Bradwell B will cause further growth, initially in the Southwest of England (2020) and later in the Southeast (2027).
Meeting the demand
This latest NWA confirms a maturing nuclear workforce; overall one fifth of the workforce is 55 or older.
Female participation in the workforce is 20% and women are particularly under-represented in STEM roles.
Trainees represent an important opportunity to increase the participation of women; the female trainee participation rate is currently 24% and highest among Civil apprentices at 30%.
Recruitment into the sector includes both experienced workers from inside and outside of the nuclear industry, and apprentices and graduates beginning careers in the industry.
Of the three quarters of experienced recruits in the civil sector who had transferred from similar occupations, 60% were from outside of the nuclear industry.
Of the 25% who were trainees, two thirds were apprentices and the remainder graduates.
Meeting the diversity target
The NWA report shows that meeting the Nuclear Sector Deal target of a 40% female workforce by 2030 against an overall attrition rate of 8% (for example through retirement) and no net expansion, recruitment of at least 50% women is required, averaged over the next decade or so.
Female participation falls as job skill levels increase, particularly above level 5. It is clear that equality of opportunity requires progression to higher levels to be accessible to all, and that career breaks don’t unnecessarily restrict advancement.
An increased demand for skills can normally be met by their availability in the employment market. Where the supply against a particular demand is more challenging, these are labelled ‘fragile skills’. There has been no dramatic change in these type of skills, and they continue to include:
This latest NSSG NWA is supported by the NSSG members and key partners. They see this clear ownership, alongside their own contribution of refreshed data, as being critical to improving understanding of sector skills requirements. Since the previous NWA there has been significant progress in the NNB arena. J0 – the concrete pour for the nuclear island at EDF’s Hinkley Point C – was undertaken ahead of schedule, while Sizewell C in Suffolk completed the fourth stage of its consultation. The China General Nuclear Power (CGN) and EDF Energy Bradwell B new build development in Essex, which was not featured in the previous NWA, and which is still subject to investigative works, is now a firm feature of this updated report.
In addition to multi-GWe scale plants, it is now recognised that Small Modular Reactors (SMR) could be a solution to meeting our low carbon energy needs. Also funded feasibility studies for up to 8 Gen IV designs have been set in progress. This is alongside a £20 million Government funding for development of Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing. Furthermore, the UK will accelerate efforts to realise fusion energy through a £222 million Government investment in a visionary fusion reactor programme, known as STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production). However, the cancellation of the NuGeneration project in Cumbria, and the suspension of the Horizon NNB project on Anglesey has also led to some uncertainty which is reflected in this report.