At Sellafield, public-private partnerships are closing the skills gap
Sellafield Ltd, operator of the UK’s largest nuclear facility, is working alongside partners, including the public sector, to help improve education outcomes as part of its social impact strategy.
Sellafield Ltd, operator of the UK’s largest nuclear facility, has adopted a unique partnership approach towards raising educational attainment levels in those communities closest to the Sellafield site.
The company is working alongside partners, including the public sector, to help improve education outcomes as part of its social impact strategy – ‘a potential prototype for other areas of the UK to adopt’.
Jamie Reed, Sellafield Ltd’s head of Corporate Affairs highlighted its education support alongside the opportunities and challenges faced in Cumbria, at a Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP) fringe event in Manchester that focused on “education and skills gaps in the UK”.
He said: “Working with our owners, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), we have developed a new approach to social impact designed to deliver our nationally important mission while enabling social improvements and economic diversification in west Cumbria.
“A big part of the social impact approach is investment in education and skills. At Sellafield, the UK’s largest nuclear site with a workforce of over 11,000 people, we undertake the nationally important work of cleaning up the country’s highest nuclear risks and hazards while safeguarding spent nuclear fuel, materials and waste.
“While delivering this crucial environmental remediation project, we ensure that we have the right skills through creating and developing a highly skilled workforce. For example, the company identified a surfeit of project managers a decade ago and calculated the shortage could threaten the delivery of its decommissioning programme.
“In response we launched the Sellafield Project Academy in collaboration with the University of Cumbria and the Association of Project Managers. To date, more than 1,000 people have graduated and the model is being explored by a host of UK blue chips.
“We’ve always had to ‘grow our own’ to some degree. We don’t have a string of universities on our doorstep providing a conveyor belt of higher level skills, but the fact remains that the completion of the Sellafield mission requires some of the best minds available anywhere in the world.
“We also have a duty to ensure the opportunities that exist at Sellafield can be accessed by people living locally. That means helping to create the educational infrastructure to deliver the skills people need to maximise those opportunities.”
That infrastructure includes a university technical college (UTC) in Cumbria and Warrington, an apprentice training centre, a construction skills hub, the National College for Nuclear, and the Dalton Cumbria Facility (DCF) for postgraduate research.
It’s this devotion to ensuring local people benefit from the £2bn-a-year Sellafield decommissioning programme which is driving the company’s latest educational interventions.
Sellafield Ltd has now played a pivotal role in the development of two new schools: Westlakes Academy, in Egremont, now the second best performing secondary in Cumbria; and Campus Whitehaven, a two-school site featuring a secondary school and a school for children with special educational needs.
“Another recent example of our company’s education support is the Excellence in Learning and Leadership (WELL) project designed to raise education attainment in every West Cumbrian school.
“The project was developed through collaboration between the NDA, Cumbria County Council and Cumbria Alliance of Systems Leaders, and aims to provide the best learning and outcomes for children and young people with a particular focus on those facing disadvantage.
“Our social impact strategy is focused on investments that create the conditions for long-term sustainable improvements. Our vision helps west Cumbria to create a high-performing centre of excellence, developing technology to solve the challenges at Sellafield which can be exported into other markets, creating economic value and sustaining a strong services sector, and a stronger diverse economy.
“We will need a broad base of high-level skills to achieve our ambitions, but I think we’re already proving that with a clear and unified vision, a methodical and collaborative approach to education, and a collective belief in what we’re trying to achieve, then we can be successful.”
Dan Cochlin, NPP head of External Affairs said: “We work closely with partners of NPP, including Sellafield Ltd, on improving educational standards in the North, and the work they carry out is a template for the rest of the country to help drive improvements in their local communities.
“These improvements can’t be solved purely by government intervention, they have to be driven through partnerships involving local councils, companies and other key stakeholders.”