Katrien Van Tichelen, ENS YGN

YGN @ ENC 2007

At ENC2007, the Young Generation Network of the ENS organized the workshop "Challenges and Opportunities for Nuclear Professionals".

The ENS YGN invited two speakers to introduce the topic from different perspectives. Gert Van den Eynde (SCK•CEN / BNEN, Belgium) focussed on the research and academic point of view. Marco Streit (ATEL, Switzerland) represented the nuclear industry and utilities. Both presentations were the perfect initiators of a lively discussion.

The debate was even more successful due to the varied and enthusiastic public. Thirty participants, fresh and experienced, from universities, research institutes and industry participated actively in the discussions until the chairman noticed it was high time for conclusions!

Nuclear professionals have a high market value! Opportunities are numerous. Energy needs are growing. There is a steep increase in requests for plant lifetime extension and in proposals for new builds, whereas a large generation of nuclear experts is retiring. Research opportunities preparing the next generation of nuclear systems are ample.

Qualified people are needed in times where engineering studies aren't very hot and the public perception of nuclear not very positive.
The problem is even bigger for universities and institutes: the high need for qualified people in the industry, results in a brain drain from research. This is a severe challenge for the universities and institutes today.
Also, the retirement of the experienced generation in combination the generation gap in nuclear industry complicate the transfer of know-how towards the new nuclear professionals. Nuclear industry should be aware of this difficulty and provide programmes to bridge the gap.

Nuclear education programmes are available in universities and institutes, both at national and international level. They are set up in a way a combination of study and work is possible. Universities and institutes can organize specific programmes at the request of industry (while guaranteeing the academic value!). Industry can sponsor engineering faculties and send its people to universities.
Innovative projects attract young people. Large infrastructures are magnets for new professionals. Research progresses science and provides sustainable solutions.

By combining their efforts, research and industry can tackle the challenges above!

Young people interested in the nuclear field, should enter now. Opportunities to get the right qualification exist but own initiative and flexibility are needed. Don't wait until someone ask you but organize yourself to learn from experienced people and to share your own experiences with the others.

Research and industry should give their new professionals the opportunity to learn new things. They could set up mentoring programmes to bridge the generation gap. Encourage young people to network and convince your middle management to allow them to participate to conferences. Give young employees some freedom and let them take leadership!

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