An important milestone in the journey to an exciting future for Somerset and the wider south west was reached on Monday 12 December as work to construct the southern hub of the Government's flagship National College for Nuclear in Cannington got under way.
In a year that has seen the go ahead given for the nuclear new build at Hinkley Point C and the establishment of nuclear sector hubs in Somerset and Bristol, today's ‘Turning Concept into Reality' event at Bridgwater & Taunton College's Cannington Centre attracted widespread interest from industry, community and political stakeholders.
With an estimated £930 billion set to be invested in the nuclear industry worldwide over the next 20 years, the National College aims to train over 7,000 students by 2020 and will support the Government's ambition to supply 90% of our nuclear workforce from within the UK. Funded by £15m from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), with additional finance for the southern hub coming from the Heart of the South West LEP and Bridgwater & Taunton College, it will welcome students from late 2017, focusing on degree apprenticeship programmes designed to deliver highly skilled technicians with an innate understanding of the requirements, behaviours and culture of a licensed nuclear environment. EDF Energy and Sellafield Ltd will lead industry input into the curriculum, working alongside Bridgwater & Taunton and Lakes Colleges and the Universities of Bristol, Cumbria and the West of England.
Speaking prior to today's event, Vincent de Rivaz CBE, Chief Executive of EDF Energy said,
“EDF Energy is proud to be at the heart of the UK's new National College for Nuclear. The National College will play a vital role in developing skills across the industry, underpinning the UK's nuclear renaissance. The industry needs high quality vocational skills so that we can continue to operate the existing nuclear fleet safely for longer, as well as for taking forward plans for the UK's first new nuclear power station in a generation. The National College for Nuclear will help ensure the UK has the right skills to participate fully in the global nuclear market.”
Nuclear expert Professor Tom Scott, from the University of Bristol and the South West Nuclear Hub, addressed guests at today's ceremony, highlighting huge technological advances, competition from other sectors and an ageing workforce as the key contributing factors to the current shortage of nuclear-specific skills. He welcomed the decision to establish the National College which, with its scaled and simulated industrial structures that replicate the nuclear environment, will employ a blend of practical and project-based learning methods to enable students to ‘learn by discovery' in a risk-free setting. He explained that people learn in different ways, and that the National College for Nuclear will enable those from non-academic backgrounds to participate fully in full-and part-time degree programmes and degree apprenticeships and emerge as highly skilled, work ready professionals.
Steve Naylor, Head of Campus Operations and Business Development at EDF Energy offered a personal insight saying,
“I've worked in the nuclear industry for 26 years and it is hugely exciting and diverse, offering a wealth of career opportunities. We need to attract good people and we actively engage with schools, colleges and universities to harness the talent they have available. We're also strong advocates of the apprenticeship route to higher level qualifications and can see no better way of developing our own talent, in our own way, to produce industry professionals with the correct attributes and behaviours. The National College for Nuclear will enable us to create a pipeline of skills to meet our specific skills needs regionally, nationally and internationally.”
Steve Hindley, Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, which has part-funded the project through its Growth Deal said,
“The National College for Nuclear is a real coup for the South West and firmly establishes this area as a national hub for the nuclear industry of the future. This is an ideal project to be part-funded by £3 million from our Growth Deal, which supports projects that benefit the local area and economy.
“Starting this construction is also a major milestone in the growing nuclear sector which is being developed in the Nuclear South West (NSW) partnership of three south west LEPs, the education sector and the nuclear industry itself. NSW aims to build on the area's strengths in the nuclear sector and capitalise on the estimated £50bn worth of opportunities in new-build, decommissioning and defence. This new college will play a key role in training the highly-skilled workforce of the future and enabling local people to take up rewarding careers.”
After the ground-breaking ceremony Mike Robbins, Principal of Bridgwater & Taunton College thanked BEIS, the Heart of the South West LEP and local MP Ian Liddell-Grainger for their investment and continuing support, as well as County and Parish Councillors for allowing the construction of the National College's southern hub in their locality. He also thanked his colleagues and staff for their tremendous efforts in bringing a concept developed over two years ago to an exciting reality.