College welcomes first nuclear scientist/engineer degree apprentices

Posted 3 years ago


Degree apprenticeships are at the forefront of the Government’s apprenticeship reform policy, and enable students to combine a full Honours degree with real, practical workplace skills and the financial security of a regular pay packet. They’re designed in consultation with employers to ensure that the education sector delivers the higher level skills that industry really needs, and produces graduates whose thorough understanding of workplace behaviours and cultures enables them to add value to the bottom line from day one.

The BTC/University of the West of England (UWE) Trailblazer programme sees five apprentices from EDF Energy studying alongside 13 from the Ministry of Defence, gaining the knowledge and expertise they’ll need as skilled technicians on the next generation of nuclear power/nuclear deterrent. Starting with a Foundation Degree in Mechatronics, they’ll initially study full-time at Bridgwater and Taunton College, moving on in their second year either to EDF Energy sites in Hartlepool, Sizewell and Barnwood or to the MoD training base at Abbey Wood. They’ll gain a wealth of practical experience whilst studying on a block release basis for their NVQ competencies at College and, subsequently, a BSc or BEng at UWE.

Come September 2017, all of the students will move across to the southern hub of the Government’s flagship National College for Nuclear (NCfN), currently being constructed at BTC’s Cannington Centre, close to Hinkley Point C. NCfN will transform the way that higher level skills are taught, using cutting edge technology and virtual reality simulation to deliver project-based assignments that replicate nuclear workplace scenarios. Learning will be embedded via a ‘journey of discovery’ that enables students to see, experience and understand how a licensed work environment operates and the demands that will be placed on them in their future careers. Embedding this understanding at an early stage is estimated to reduce employees’ induction periods by up to 18 months.

Speaking of the degree apprenticeship programme, EDF Energy’s Director of Learning and Development, Simon Earp, said: “The development of apprentices is key to our strategy to address the gap in higher level skills as we commence work on our new fleet of UK-based nuclear power stations. Recognising the developmental nature of Degree Apprenticeships, we are committed to working with the National College for Nuclear to offer access to industry-specific training facilities and the EDF Campus facility at Cannington Court, to ensure students can apply their knowledge to the real world nuclear sector.”

Phil Rotherham, Senior Apprentice Development Manager DE&S at the Ministry of Defence added: “DE&S plays a vital role in maintaining military operational capability, and it is imperative that we develop highly skilled professionals from diverse backgrounds and disciplines. This degree apprenticeship will ensure that candidates acquire not only academic expertise, but also the practical skills and leadership behaviours that the MoD needs.”

Both Bridgwater and Taunton College and the University of the West of England are delighted to be supporting the UK’s nuclear renaissance with innovative apprenticeship programmes that enable more young people to acquire degree level competencies and skills.

Dr John Lanham, Assistant Vice Chancellor and Director of Strategic Regional Partnerships at the University of the West of England said: “UWE Bristol is working across the region with partner colleges and employers to support the Government’s ambitions for degree apprenticeships. The new Trailblazer Degree Apprenticeships build on UWE's long and established track record of supporting the region’s industries and economy, and offer school leavers a funded route to study for a degree which, combined with valuable work experience, will give them a flying start to a professional career. We are delighted to be supporting the National College for Nuclear development work and have seconded a member of UWE staff to contribute to curriculum development in the coming academic session.”

His words were echoed by Matt Tudor, Director of Business Development and Marketing at Bridgwater and Taunton College, saying: “Degree Apprenticeships offer young people a perfect blend of academic and technical expertise coupled with real work experience. Bridgwater and Taunton College is delighted to be working with industry and university partners to address the region’s need for higher level skills and develop the technical and professional workforce of tomorrow.”