Tue, 23 July 2024

Newsletter sign-up

Subscribe now
The House Live All
Cutting electricity bills to boost net-zero Partner content
By The MCS Foundation
A gas distribution network preparing for the energy transition Partner content
Plug in to unlock: the benefits of smart meter-enabled EV flexibility Partner content
By Cornwall Insight
The role of renewable liquid gases in the fight to reach net-zero Partner content
By Dimeta
The future needs innovators Partner content
By Urban Splash
Press releases

Why the nuclear industry needs a joined up approach to skills

Matthew Lay, Head of EDF Nuclear Skills Alliance

Matthew Lay, Head of EDF Nuclear Skills Alliance | EDF

4 min read Partner content

Addressing the nuclear skills gap, Matthew Lay, Head of EDF Nuclear Skills Alliance, calls for a collaborative approach to tackle the growing demand for talent

I joined EDF as Head of the Nuclear Skills Alliance in October of last year at one of the most exciting times in the industry for decades. The public and political appetite to see new nuclear projects develop has grown strongly according to opinion polling on the subject. This is down to the glaring reality that, if we are serious about ensuring energy security, stabilising prices to customers and, importantly, ensuring we decarbonise the system then nuclear power needs to be a key part of the UK energy mix. It is clear though that the path to delivering these projects is not free from challenge.

Securing financing and navigating the planning and regulatory systems more efficiently are key drivers to progressing new nuclear projects but so is the availability of skilled workers.

The UK Government’s commitment to nuclear power must be seen in the context of a steady increase of nuclear capacity worldwide as well as growth in defence expenditure. At the recent COP28 summit in Dubai, 22 countries pledged to triple global nuclear capacity by 2050. The Defence industry’s demand for nuclear skills, to deliver established and new nuclear submarine programmes, is also growing.

This level of nuclear development means increasing competition for relevant construction, technical and specialist nuclear skills nationally and globally.

In fact, the latest labour market report by the Nuclear Skills Strategy Group highlighted a number of key challenges facing both civil and defence, including the need to bring in 135,000 people into the sector by 2030 in the UK alone, at a time when labour markets are already historically tight.

In its nuclear operations business, EDF has already experienced challenges in sourcing the right number of qualified professionals to support maintenance outages at our generating sites over the past year. We are working closely with our supply chain partners to address this issue for forthcoming outages, but its long-term resolution will need a concerted industry-wide effort.

Initiatives like the recently launched Destination Nuclear campaign, which is designed to attract people into the industry, are important in attracting new recruits, as is the work of Nuclear Skills Taskforce, of which EDF is a key member.

The Taskforce, which is developing a national sector skills plan, is due to report its initial findings soon and we are committed to continuing to work with partners to deliver concrete outcomes from the plan.

Of course EDF is already committed to developing nuclear skills to support its own business. In the last decade we have hired more than 1,800 graduates and apprentices. This year, the number involved in early careers schemes will be more than 200 with more planned growth to follow. At sites which have ended generation we are preserving crucial nuclear skills by supporting our people to retrain to stay at their current location through defueling or take new opportunities at other sites. For example, more than 500 people have transferred to Hinkley Point C from Nuclear Operations in the last decade, from stations and central support offices. We are also working with colleagues at Nuclear Restoration Services to transfer skilled people to support decommissioning. In many ways this is the ‘just transition’ in action, not just words.   

Looking at our business plan for the next five years, we plan to:

  • Invest over £200m in nuclear training and R&D across all EDF nuclear businesses in the UK.
  • Hire up to 1,000 people to work at our existing stations and in various technical and business support roles, with over half of these being for graduates and apprentices. In 2024 alone, the wider EDF nuclear family in the UK aims to hire over 1,000 people into various new and replacement roles.
  • Continue to invest in developing EDF Nuclear Services, the home for specialist nuclear skills serving existing reactors and new build projects, to support the future water reactor fleet and other opportunities.

Having the right people with the right skills to build and to operate these vital pieces of national infrastructure is one of the biggest challenges facing the civil nuclear sector. EDF is working hard to do its part but it is clear that a joined-up approach from government, industry, academia, supply chain and Trade Unions is crucial to ensure any nuclear skills gap is managed effectively, not just for today but for tomorrow.

PoliticsHome Newsletters

Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.


Education Energy
Associated Organisation
Engineering a Better World

The Engineering a Better World podcast series from The House magazine and the IET is back for series two! New host Jonn Elledge discusses with parliamentarians and industry experts how technology and engineering can provide policy solutions to our changing world.

NEW SERIES - Listen now