The company responsible for cleaning up Europe’s most complex nuclear site, Sellafield Ltd, is creating a record number of new apprenticeships – and 24 per cent of them are female, seven times the national average for the sector.
The new recruits are mostly aged between 16 and 18, have started their new careers, joining up with local training provider Gen2 for the first year of their programmes before moving on to roles with Sellafield Ltd.
They can all look forward to careers in a highly skilled industry after a first-class three-and-a-half year training experience, with a job in the nuclear industry guaranteed for those who successfully complete the course.
The complicated and difficult job of cleaning up the legacy of one of the world’s earliest nuclear sites will last for at least the next 100 years. This vitally important work is underpinned by an annual government investment of close to £1.8 billion, which is made by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), via the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).
The new intake numbers represent an encouraging trend, with the average number of apprentices in the six years since Nuclear Management Partners took over the running of Sellafield Ltd in 2008 now at 110, double the average number for the six years before.
Copeland MP Jamie Reed said: “It is vitally important that we grow the skills base in the UK so that we can respond to the challenges posed by industry. Investment in the education and training of young people is an important route to helping build a more sustainable industrial future. I am pleased to see the taxpayer receive a return on the Government’s significant investment of taxpayers’ money at Sellafield.
“The chance to complete an apprenticeship offers a route to raise the aspirations of young people, and it is very encouraging to hear that those who successfully complete the course will have a secure, well paid job at the end of it, where they’ll be performing the important duty of contributing to the decommissioning of Sellafield.
“And if they choose to go down a different career path they’ll do so with a fantastic qualification and bags of experience in nuclear and energy, which is a growth industry.”
Sellafield Ltd Managing Director Tony Price said: “You could be forgiven for wondering why a decommissioning site needs to take on so many new recruits – but Sellafield is one of the largest industrial sites in the UK with dozens of new buildings and construction projects needed to help us take down some of our legacy plants. There will be work here for at least the next 100 years and that means a real opportunity for someone looking to build a career.
“That’s why we are so keen to invest in a young, local workforce and apprenticeships are a great way for us to grow the company’s skills base. We currently have over 400 apprentices in training in total – and the new intake is another record breaking one, which is fantastic news not only for the company, but for both the local community from which we’ll take most of the recruits, and for UK PLC too.”
John Clarke, Chief Executive Officer of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, said: “There is a huge challenge to overcome at Sellafield but with that challenge comes a real opportunity.
“Young people see the opportunity that exists, and that is not just in completing the existing mission of decommissioning the site – the industry itself is enjoying something of a renaissance with new reactors planned for sites around the country, and possible future opportunities in fuel manufacture. When you also consider that the skills these young people are learning are easily transferable across the energy sector, a Sellafield apprentice in 2014 really does have the world at his or her feet.
The Sellafield site, opened in the 1940s, was home to the UK’s nuclear weapons program, the world’s first commercial nuclear power reactor and various nuclear fuel storage facilities. The oldest of these facilities were built by nuclear pioneers in an age before computers, without any thought for how they would be cleaned up.
The challenge of cleaning up those early facilities is falling to the modern generation of nuclear workers, and Sellafield Ltd, under the ownership of Nuclear Management Partners, employees over 10,000 people. Apprentice intake numbers have increased dramatically under NMP’s stewardship.
Electrical and Instrumentation (E&I) apprentice – Hannah McKain, age 17 from Whitehaven: “The opportunity to do an apprenticeship and earn money whilst gaining a qualification really appealed to me. I’m pleased that these opportunities exist for people like me, we are really lucky.
“The work that is going on at the site is interesting and challenging and lots of people in the local area work in the industry.
“I considered doing my A-Levels and would have gone to University if I hadn’t been able to do this apprenticeship – there is so much competition now and the brightest and best students at my school all wanted to come into an apprenticeship, because it provides so many opportunities. I’m delighted to have been chosen.”