Meeting the challenges
The nuclear sector today is in dire need of more qualified personnel. Although it hired massively during the nuclear boom years of the 70’s, those recruited then are now fast approaching the age of retirement and they will need to be replaced. The recent nuclear revival, which has seen increased lifetime extensions for some nuclear power plants and the launching of new build projects across the world, has led to greatly increased demand for additional qualified staff in order to sustain it.
It goes without saying that a dynamic, fast-evolving and increasingly global nuclear industry, which imposes and satisfies the most stringent of safety standards, needs the support of an adapted and upgraded education and training system. Only this will deliver the increased number of highly-skilled and trained personnel that it requires.
Conversely, for 20 years, the nuclear industry was stagnating or in decline in many countries. A low level of public acceptance with regards to all things nuclear made the sector seem even less attractive. This fact, combined with a general decline in the public’s overall interest in scientific and technical subjects, led to fewer students choosing to study nuclear physics and engineering. This, in turn, led inevitably to a cut in the number relevant courses offered by educational establishments.
Delivering skills and experience at all levels
According to our estimation graduates account for 10 - 20% of staff hired in the nuclear industry. The bulk of employees are made up of undergraduates who will often need specialised training.
One area that is becoming increasingly the focus of attention is the need for experienced managers. For example, a Senior Finance Manager who has developed his or her career in a different sector and is recruited by the nuclear industry will need to be trained in order to acquire the specific skills set he or she will need for his new job.
The sector is pulling out all the stops to meet the challenge. Several education and training programmes have been set up to maintain the nuclear knowledge bank and to ensure that there are sufficient numbers of suitably qualified employees at all levels to sustain the industry in the future.
Education at university level, which is very resource intensive and requires long-term planning, has been a major focus in recent years. New courses have been designed and a lot of effort has been made to increase the quality and complementarity of existing courses. A range of educational networks has been set up at both a national and European levels including, for example, CHERNE (Co-operation for Higher Education on Radiological and Nuclear Engineering), ENEN (European Nuclear Education Network), BNEN (Belgian Nuclear Education Network) and CENEN (Czech Republic Nuclear Education Network).
At the same time, the nuclear industry has assumed responsibility for developing and increasing its own education and training capabilities. In addition to in-house training programmes, it offers others based on collaborative ventures with educational institutions. These allow for a combination of on-the-job training with periods of study for employees.
The European Nuclear Society’s Education and Training Platform
The exchange of experience and expertise, the sharing of capabilities and resources and networking between stakeholders, is crucial for the development of an efficient education and training offer that is geared to providing the highly-skilled workforce that a dynamic and fast-evolving sector demands.
With that in mind, the European Nuclear Society (ENS) has established the Education and Training (E&T) Platform. It provides an overview of available university courses, as well as the training and education programmes offered by industry and other institutions. The E&T Platform places special emphasis on collaboration between stakeholders, on the sharing of available infrastructure and resources and on the promotion of existing networks.
The Platform is closely linked to ENS’ bi-annual conference on Education and Training, NESTet, and will continue to evolve thanks to the input it receives from the conference. Another significant contribution to the Platform is made by ENS’ members in 23 countries and by its 60-strong corporate membership.
Nuclear Energy book
The information of all the European countries:
Joint Research Centre