FORATOM/ENS Education, Training and Knowledge Management Task Force publications
National initiatives to attract young people to study nuclear energy related subjects
According to the European Human Resources Observatory in Nuclear (EHRO-N) report published in 2012, which is entitled “Putting into perspective the supply of and demand for nuclear experts by 2020 within the EU-27 nuclear energy sector,” the nuclear industry will be faced with a lack of qualified employees. The report states that around 40.000 nuclear experts will be needed by 2020 to take up new posts and to replace retired personnel. The lack of engineers and young qualified people is also a problem that other energy technologies are facing. In order to respond to the HR needs of the nuclear industry it is important to encourage young people to study engineering, physics, chemistry or mathematics. The statistics show that less and less students are graduating in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) subjects. A majority of European countries, together with the European Commission, have launched various initiatives to attract young people to study STEM subjects. One objective is to increase young people’s interest in technical studies beginning at both primary and secondary school levels. It is important to mention other significant initiatives that have been supported by the European Commission in the past and which have had the objective of attracting the attention of young people to the value of studying STEM subjects. These included projects related to teacher training (the Amgen Science Teacher Training initiative), innovative practices (Pathway), technology-enhanced learning (Go-Lab) and science awareness in schools (Xperimania, FuturEnergia).
Skills in STEM subjects are becoming an increasingly important part of basic literacy in today’s knowledge economy. “To keep Europe growing, we will need one million additional researchers by 2020” states the EC in the Final Report on the Research Profession1.
Considering the above-mentioned scenario the FORATOM/ENS Education, Training and Knowledge Management Task Force (ETKM TF) recently launched a call for contributions from its members in order to provide an overview of all industry initiatives at secondary school level that aim to attract pupils to study STEM subjects, particularly nuclear-related disciplines. Answers to the call for contributions were received from 17 European countries. The ENS-Young Generation Network is one of the most active groups in this regard, visiting schools and cooperating with school teachers to explain nuclear energy issues to pupils. In Austria, Croatia, France, Netherlands, Poland, Romania and Slovakia the Young Generation Network organises, with great support from their National Societies, a number of school visits, meetings with pupils and teachers to explain what radiation is and what generating nuclear energy is all about. It’s another example of the Young Generation speaking to young people. In Belgium and Slovenia, e.g., the educational objective of attracting youngsters to study energy-related subjects is led by the main national research institutes. In Bulgaria, France or Spain the nuclear industry is the main actor in explaining nuclear energy issues to secondary school pupils. In most of these countries the cooperation between scientific organisations, academia and industry in actively approaching young people to explain to them the complexity of nuclear is very strong. Some positive examples of this good collaboration can be seen in FORATOM/ENS ETKMTF publications that available online at www.euronuclear.org