Opening the door to a bright career in the nuclear industry
The nuclear industry is growing worldwide, and a pipeline of talent in the science and engineering fields is required in order to meet future industry demand. The industry currently has a world-class engineering capability, with the best minds and cutting edge skills. However, with an ageing workforce and thousands of new jobs anticipated in nuclear over the next decade, the emerging nuclear renaissance will depend upon educating young engineers to become the leaders of tomorrow.
In order to reinforce URENCO’s position as a market leader in the nuclear power industry, the Group requires bright, dedicated individuals who have the knowledge, skills and experience to ‘enrich the future’. URENCO makes a strong contribution to first-class education and training both within schools and across the nuclear industry. In this article, the spotlight falls upon URENCO’s established Apprentice and Scholarships programme, which currently develops the key skills of nearly seventy young people across the world.
URENCO supports each Apprentice’s professional and technical development through qualifications and mentoring, although the focus for the scheme is not only on education. A key aspect of the programme is on developing the attitudes and behaviours that are essential for the safe and efficient operation of URENCO’s enrichment facilities.
Each Apprentice scheme varies depending upon the facility, as the scheme caters to local educational and national regulatory requirements. Across all of URENCO’s European schemes, time is split between college where Apprentices learn practical broad-based skills in mechanical, fabrication, electrical and instrumentation fields, alongside ‘on-the-job’ training at URENCO. This combination of theoretical and practical work has proven to be the most valuable method of learning. In addition to formal training processes, there are also strong mentoring schemes in place. Mentors take an active role not only in technical training and assistance on-the-job, but also within college work and examination preparation.
In late 2010, URENCO’s German facility organised a workshop for their group of Mechanical, Electrical and Administration Apprentices. This was an interactive event designed to develop their key skills of communication, confidence and creativity. The Apprentices gained a lot from the experience of working together even though they usually work in different departments. URENCO places a priority on developing this sort of cross-company collaboration, which the Group considers a key feature of effective operations within the nuclear industry.
URENCO’s US facility, which became operational in June 2010, will play a pivotal role in the US nuclear renaissance. In this respect, it takes full responsibility for training the next generation of nuclear engineers. The URENCO USA Scholarship Programme was established to train a pool of qualified and experienced future employees, and make a valuable contribution to the local community. URENCO USA offers up to twenty full scholarships per year, including tuition, fees and book costs, to qualified applicants in the Eunice area who are enrolled at New Mexico Junior College and undertaking an Applied Science Energy Technology degree.
Exemplifying the positive impact this sort of support can have, Jesus Natera, a 2009 recipient of the Scholarship and now employed by URENCO USA full time, commented: “The programme offers the opportunity to grow with the Company. I have an engaging future where I learn new material every day and I have a chance to accomplish new things that would have otherwise been difficult…URENCO USA has provided an engaging future for me to develop my nuclear and industrial background.
Jesus Natera, a 2009 recipient of the Scholarship and now employed by URENCO USA
Leading the Way
The hard work, professionalism and commitment that all of URENCO’s Apprentices demonstrate on a daily basis sets a high standard for their future within the Group and the wider nuclear industry. In 2010, many of URENCO’s Apprentices achieved external recognition for their hard work.
Top 100 ranking
In 2006, the Chemistry Department at URENCO’s German facility created their Apprentice programme and hired their first Apprentice, Jens Bockhorn, in 2007. Due to his exceptional performance and achievements, Jens was permitted to shorten the duration of his course and passed his exams with excellent grades. On top of this, Jens’ outstanding abilities were recognised by being ranked in the Top 100 Apprentices in the region around URENCO’s German facility.
During his first year with the company, Paul Gavin, Trainee Engineering Technician, was awarded “URENCO UK Apprentice of the Year” and later gained a triple distinction for the National Diploma in Operations and Maintenance Engineering. In July 2010, Paul was named Wirral Metropolitan College’s ‘Most Improved Apprentice’ in recognition of his academic achievements. The college made the award, sponsored by the Institution of Mechanical Engineering, in recognition of Paul’s “inspiration” to other young people.
Paul Gavin (centre) one of URENCO's inspirational Apprentices
In addition to Apprentice schemes across the Group, URENCO is also committed to developing industry-wide education and skills organisations. A recent example of this is URENCO’s support of the UK National Skills Academy Nuclear (NSAN), of which URENCO is a founding sponsor and active partner. Aiming to create, develop and promote world class skills and career pathways, the NSAN is contributing towards a steady and sustainable future for the UK nuclear industry. Demonstrating this support, Stephen Bool and Richard Davies, both Engineering Apprentices at URENCO UK, volunteered to assist the NSAN by piloting a new e-learning package. The study time for this was around seventy hours including a two hour examination. Their feedback and results proved invaluable to NSAN and helped to develop a new software package which will enhance nuclear education across the industry.
Enriching the future
URENCO’s Apprentice and Scholarship programmes offer many benefits to the Apprentice, the URENCO Group and also the wider industry. Engaging young people in the industry at the start of their career and providing high-quality education and training ensures that there is a reservoir of fully trained and dedicated employees open to the industry. Apprentices are consistently acquiring skills allowing them to contribute more effectively in the wider industry, as well as ‘earning while learning’. Through programmes such as this, URENCO plays their part in ensuring that the nuclear industry can combat skills shortages in the future, as well as being able to continue to provide a sustainable energy source long into the future.