How to communicate to students about nuclear energy and job opportunities in the nuclear industry
One of the key missions assigned to the French Nuclear Energy Society – Young Generation Network (SFEN-JG) is to develop a strong relationship with students. In order to achieve this, specific actions aimed at students are undertaken.
Our main activity with regards to students is to visit them at their university or engineering schools. We come to them with a couple of alumni and present them our industry and the jobs that it offers. First, we present energy demand in the world and explain the role that nuclear plays. This enables us to underline the growth of our industry, detail the numerous opportunities available in the industry and explain how it will offer jobs for a long time to come thanks reactor lifetimes of 60 years. Next, we briefly describe the SFEN-JG: its goals (providing information and developing the acquisition of knowledge) and its actions (visits to facilities, participation in job fairs, interviews of top executives etc.). Finally, we let the alumni take the floor and generate a lively, interactive debate. Describing their current positions, they show that even though they took the same classes, they now hold very different positions. Students are very demanding when it comes to receiving information and, for instance, these meetings can help them to choose between carrying out research or a job in industry. They help to decide whether or not a PhD is necessary in order to get the job of their dreams. It’s also important to mention the numerous questions that asked about the importance of gaining an international experience. By answering such questions, the alumni help students to make the choice that will later determine their career path.
In 2010, several engineering schools were visited (Chimie ParisTech, Master ITDD, etc.). SFEN-JG was also involved in international events, such as AtomiCareers in Bruxelles, in which ENS-YGN was also involved. This kind of activity is strongly supported and is key for the growth of our network.
Students from Lille attending a presentation from SFEN JG members
To support those debates, SFEN-JG relies on the testimonies of more than 60 professionals, which are available on our website. This initiative is based on the same principle: nuclear employees summarise their job and explain what makes it interesting. The testimonies cover most topics (chemistry, materials science, neutronics, etc.), involve the participation of French companies like AREVA, CEA,, GDF SUEZ, EDF, ONET Technologies, etc., and take place in Paris, the South of France, etc. Once again they are very useful tool for students to get a good global overview of what their career option could be.
In addition to these specific activities targeting engineering schools, we also make all SFEN-JG activities open to students. This provides a good opportunity to encourage an exchange of ideas, a melting pot for young professional and students. Technical tours and visits of NPPs or factories are one of the main tools for establishing this contact. As with all practical activities, they offer an easy way of introducing the subject, especially because young people do not have numerous opportunities to visit such facilities. Such visits provide an invaluable opportunity to present our industry and to answer all the questions that have occupied their minds for a long time, such as: How much power can you get from uranium? Is nuclear energy safe enough? What are the dangers of radioactivity? What is the difference between a nuclear reactor and a bomb? These questions are raised whatever the kind of facility visited and students can get the answer straight from the specialists. The visits also help present all the aspects of our industry. Indeed, whatever part of the fuel cycle you discover, it cannot work without the other parts: enrichment needs a mine, power plant needs the enrichment facility and requires fuel reprocessing if we want to close the cycle. Consequently, young visitors come to realise how broad-based the nuclear industry is and discover the very numerous jobs that it can offer them.
Students and young professionals from SFEN-JG visiting an AREVA Factory in Chalon
In order to complement these day-to-day activities, we also strengthen our relations with students through the work of student committees. These are regional groups that gather together students from universities and engineering schools. They are active all year long, organising the same kind of activities: visits, conferences, debates, presentations at job fairs, etc. Furthermore, every year they organise a national event that mobilises 200 students from all engineering schools and focuses on a specific theme.
2010 Event organisation team
For instance, in 2010, it was called "Nuclear in our everyday life" and presented all the applications of nuclear energy from electricity to medicine, including the role of women in the industry. Because their activities are mostly local we provide them with strong support in finding speakers for conferences, sponsors, and help them to get contacts for tour facilities so that they can gain national visibility.
Eventually, let's say that many of our actions are oriented towards the future generation and that we see the results of these efforts when many young people join our network!
Hélène Lefaix and Etienne de Villèle for the SFEN-JG. www.sfenjg.org