The industry may be booming – but where are all the engineers?

This is an extract from an article by Emma Jayne Gooch of McKenzie Douglas. One of her contributors says “I think that any young person that is interested in writing their own ticket for the future should start nuclear engineering and physics training now. They could name their salary and get it.”

Nuclear is big news. It’s at the crux of energy industry strategy, with a government commitment to creating 100,000 jobs in the nuclear sector. Worldwide, 436 power reactors currently contribute 15% of the world’s energy and the pace of development is increasing. Over forty new reactors are under construction, 106 are in planning and 266 are being proposed. This is an industry in transformation.

There’s something circular about this trend. Back in the 1950s, the UK was home to a golden period for the nuclear industry. A world-class engineering capability grew up here, with the best minds and cutting edge skills working on our shores. However, concerns around nuclear safety, public scepticism and a lack of government will led to a reduction in investment in the nuclear industry in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

And what was the result? The teaching of nuclear engineering in the UK fell into decline. A focus on service industries in our economy meant that engineering, across the board, became a less attractive option for graduates. We now see a situation where only 40,000 new engineers enter the workforce every year. Just 13% of graduates leave university with science, technology, engineering or mathematics degrees.

So why is this ominous for the nuclear industry? The reality is that between 2015 and 2025, the UK could face a crucial skills shortage. If that happens, the UK’s power supplies would be less reliable and more expensive. That’s a problem for everyone – and one we need to address urgently.

You can read Emma-Jayne’s complete article here.