Net zero needs nuclear – and nuclear needs young people

By 16 September 2021 October 1st, 2021 Comment

In September, four members of the Nuclear AMRC team took part in a nuclear skills and apprenticeships fair in Westminster. Lucy Birchall, working at the centre through the nucleargraduates programme, explains why investment in young workers is so important.

On Tuesday 14 September, I attended the Skills and Apprenticeships Fair which formed part of the Nuclear Week in Parliament arranged by the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA). The aim of this event was to promote the necessity of the civil nuclear industry in achieving net zero emissions, and highlight the importance of bringing young people into this industry.

MPs were invited to the event to learn about the industry and meet young people on apprenticeships and graduate schemes. This was a fantastic opportunity to present the work of the centre and the industry as a whole.

Many companies from the industry were represented at this fair, each having their own stand at which other attendees were able to ask questions and network. Running the Nuclear AMRC stand were myself, Neil Murray, Dr Rahul Mandal and Dr Paul Wrigley (left to right above). We had a lot of interaction with people from across the industry, from close partners of the centre to new apprentices just starting out at nuclear sites across the country.

For me, the highlight of the afternoon was a speech from NSAN’s nuclear apprentice of the year, Katie Wightman from Sellafield Ltd.

Katie gave an inspiring speech about how undertaking an apprenticeship has given her opportunities she never thought she’d have, having struggled with exams at school. She also highlighted some of the challenges still to be faced by stating that she is the only female in her plant-based team. Seeing another young woman speaking passionately about her experiences in the industry was the best possible advert for why apprenticeships and graduate schemes are necessary for getting more young people into the industry.

This event was also the launch of the NIA’s 2021 nuclear jobs map which details the spread of nuclear workers across the country. Having a visual representation of nationwide impact of nuclear on jobs and opportunities is a useful tool to highlight to all MPs why nuclear is relevant to them and their constituents.

During the afternoon we spoke to Trudy Harrison, MP for Copeland, the constituency which includes Sellafield. She was very interested in the work of the centre and also asked many questions about the nucleargraduates scheme.

As a nucleargraduate, I have been privileged to have seen a lot of the industry in a short period of time. My second secondment was at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), working on radioactive waste policy. Spending time working within BEIS opened my eyes to the challenges faced by policy makers, and gave me an insight into how decisions about the industry are made at the highest level. Because of this I was very happy to attend Nuclear Week and support those who are making policy by showing MPs why nuclear is important.

Attending this event was a fitting end to my time at the Nuclear AMRC, and I felt privileged to be able to promote the incredible work done at the centre to everyone from MPs to newly started apprentices.