nucleargraduates: The door to your engineering and tech career

Published: 06 Aug 2018 By Ciara Ginty

Established in 2007 by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, the nucleargraduates programme celebrates its 10-year anniversary in 2018. This ground-breaking programme was created to address critical skills shortages across the UK nuclear industry by recruiting and developing a new generation of talented STEM graduates, resulting in over 340 graduates completing or currently on programme.

The programme is one of the most ambitious ever put together for graduates, collaborating with twelve world-leading organisations – Atkins, the Environment Agency, International Nuclear Services, Jacobs, Low Level Waste Repository Ltd, Magnox Limited, Nuclear AMRC, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Office for Nuclear Regulation, Rolls-Royce and Sellafield Ltd. Prior to starting the programme graduates are matched up with one of the sponsoring organisations who will fund their nucleargraduates experience and the graduate will join their workforce upon completion of the programme.

Nuclear grads

The two-year graduate development programme has been designed to allow graduates to develop their technical skills as well as understanding the political and commercial factors affecting the industry and their role in the wider context of the industry.  Graduates undertake three secondments with three different organisations and can expect to find themselves working with Government, on-site with private sector supply chain and regulatory authorities. There is also the exciting possibility of going on an international secondment. Graduates have spent time in the USA, Canada, Japan, Spain, Germany, Sweden, China, Austria, UAE and Australia bringing valuable knowledge and experience back to the UK.

Graduates are not limited to the group of twelve sponsor companies when undertaking their three secondments, to date more than eighty organisations of varying size and turnover have provided secondment opportunities to nucleargraduates. This unique structure allows individuals to face the challenge of learning a range of managerial styles, geographical cultures, business type characteristics and how supply chains differ, all whilst building their chartership portfolios.

To complement this practical ‘on the job’ training, graduates are brought together to receive off-site graduate-specific training. Subjects range from project management to communication skills, nuclear technologies to commercial awareness. One popular element of training is ‘Outward Bound – moving on and taking responsibility’. This is an intense, action centred, challenging and adventurous module which allows graduates to transition from their graduate programme to their substantive role with their sponsor. In addition to the core training every nucleargraduate receives an individual continued professional development (CPD) plan, working with their mentor to identify and complete training specific to them.

To further enrich their knowledge and experience of the nuclear industry and its impact, graduates participate in the ‘Footprints’ corporate social responsibility programme. nucleargraduates dedicate 10% of their time on the programme to activities which include working with schoolchildren. They can expect to encourage the uptake of STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology and Maths) subjects and careers, the SME challenge, community activities and an International Footprint.

All nucleargraduates are registered as STEM ambassadors as part of their induction training recognising the importance of developing scientists and engineers within the UK to address the nations skills gap. Graduates attend local and national events, such as the Big Bang and work with local schools to highlight STEM careers in a fun way - building rockets, remote control buggies and making slime! They can help enthuse the next generation of engineering and scientists.

The SME challenge element of the Footprints programme allows graduates to understand the challenges faced by small businesses and communities directly affected by nuclear sites. By setting up, running and closing down a small business, graduates are able to appreciate the role played by smaller companies in the supply chain whilst developing their commercial skills. Working with large organisations on multi-million and billion pound projects can lead to complacency about the value of the pound, the SME challenge allows graduates to give these figures the respect they deserve, especially where UK taxpayers money is involved. From chocolate-coated coffee beans to orangutan shaped climbers chalk bags, graduates have utilised their creative flair to raise thousands of pounds for charity.

The opportunity to understand the impact of the nuclear industry in other countries has led to successful International Footprint visits to Ukraine, Switzerland, France, Romania, Canada, Belgium, Sweden and Germany allowing graduates to see the direct impact that political, technical and societal decisions have had on different communities.

The success of the nucleargraduates programme and its impact on the UK nuclear industry was recognised in 2017 when the programme received the Princess Royal Training Award. Endorsed by the Princess Royal, a keen advocate of skills development, the Award honours employers who have created outstanding training and skills development programmes which have resulted in exception commercial benefits. 

With new sponsors joining the programme and opportunities available becoming more diverse, the future is extremely bright for the nucleargraduates programme.

You can read more and apply for the programme here 

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