National Apprenticeship Week

Supported by a raft of industries and all senior politicians including the Prime Minister, National Apprenticeship Week is vitally important in introducing young people to employment opportunities and this year the nuclear industry played a key role.

The Department for Business Innovation & Skills opened its social media campaign for the week posting an infographic detailing the growth of apprenticeships in the UK nuclear sector. The graphic which illustrates a 300% increase in nuclear apprenticeships since 2008 were gathered and released by the National Skills Academy for Nuclear and the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) on 9 March.

BIS graphic apprenticeship blog

In addition to the headline grabbing statistics, the NIA produced 12 ‘apprentice cards’ to showcase the range of different apprenticeship opportunities in the nuclear sector. The cards documented those currently doing apprenticeship schemes and former apprentices now holding senior positions. The range of cards gave prospective apprentices the chance to quickly read about what each job entails and get some useful advice, such as “Ask! Ask as many questions as you need to” and “be inquisitive and challenge the norm.” The cards were a great success, reaching over 50,000 people on Twitter, retweeted over 130 times and favorited 43 times.

apprentice_blog

To round off the week, Prime Minister David Cameron announced plans to rollout nine freely available Degree Apprenticeships in a number of key sectors, including nuclear. The NIA welcomed the launch of the scheme commenting:

“Degree Apprenticeships will provide a balanced approach for work based learning and academic achievement to ensure graduates have the work-ready skills, knowledge, experience and competence required by the industry.

“With the advent of nuclear new build around the corner, and many jobs already available across the sector in the supply chain and in decommissioning, we need to see more young people looking towards the nuclear sector for a rewarding and worthwhile career.”

A number of NIA members are taking part in the scheme and with a new fleet of nuclear reactors due to begin construction in the coming years and an already far reaching decommissioning programme underway, new apprenticeships will be vital.

NIA members taking part in the Degree Apprenticeship programme:

Sellafield, Rolls Royce, Atkins, Ultra Electronics, Jacobs, Westinghouse Springfields, UK Atomic Energy Authority, Magnox Ltd, Low Level Waste Repository, EDF Energy, National Skills Academy for Nuclear, National Nuclear Laboratory, Manchester University – Dalton Institute

Rupert LewisRupert Lewis
Communication Executive

Armitt Review

How do we deliver vital infrastructure investment into an ageing energy system? The answer throughout this Parliament has been – seek it from overseas. This means the Treasury is not laden with debt and risk is retained by the private sector.

But investors need to consider how safe their investment is, does political uncertainty make a destination uninvestable, are the skills in place to deliver the investment and how certain are you that Government policies will not be changed?

Politicians have been faced with this dilemma on numerous occasions in a post-privatisation era. The Chinese own Weetabix, the Qatari’s own Canary Wharf and the Russians own The Independent Newspaper. Investors have been drawn to the UK for decades, but in a climate of ever increasing risk – financially and politically – it is important to think about how you continue to bring investment forward.

Sir John Armitt CBE has worked on Sizewell B, the Channel Tunnel rail link and most recently as the Chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority. It is with this background in mind that the Labour Party asked Sir John to consider how we deliver the infrastructure the UK is in need of, whether that is renewing Victoria innovation in the London sewers, or delivering a new generation of high speed rail.

Sir John found that ‘The UK needs affordable clean energy, modern communication systems, flood defences that can cope with the effects of climate change and a transport system that can cope with ever growing demand and which links business with markets and people with families, leisure and job opportunities.

To deliver on these ambitions and attract the money necessary to make them a reality, he has suggested a National Infrastructure Commission be formed. The Commission would produce a 25-30 year infrastructure strategy, underpinned by evidence-based assessment of the needs across the UK.

Sir John diagnoses the fundamental problem as a ‘…lack of clarity around the UK’s long term needs [making] it difficult to sustain cross-party political consensus on controversial infrastructure issues’. Such changes in direction are of course the opposite of what the market are looking for when selecting where to make their investment.

Ed Balls maintains that an infrastructure commission with foresight and far reaching powers could send the necessary market signals to drive investment.

It was hoped that Sir John’s review would be met with cross-party consensus. Given Matthew Hancock’s response at a recent Policy Exchange event – we can say with some certainty it has not!

Hancock asserts that infrastructure projects must be Government led. Their strength comes from them not being dictated by an independent body, but driven by an accountable Minister, working in collaboration with Whitehall.

This line of argument has been built on by Stephen Hammond MP whose concern is that the Infrastructure Commission gives us an unelected, unaccountable politicised body.

It is clear that there is no cross-party consensus (ironically what the projects themselves are seeking out) and the Armitt proposals will not see the light of day if the Conservative party are the largest party after the election.

But should Mr Miliband be in Number 10 then we can expect the process to select an infrastructure board to begin. They will be faced with the challenge of taking a 30-50 year view of the market – not an enviable task – and certainly not one that is in a position to pick the winners given many will not have been invented yet.

Yet you could argue that the Coalition Government have in fact introduced their own infrastructure commission for one sector – aviation. The Davies Commission is an evidence based assessment of the options on airport expansion. Sir Howard Davies has already ruled out ‘Boris Island’ and will publish his full report following the election in May.

No decision will be taken on the long term future of infrastructure investment until the next Government is formed. What is not in doubt is that whoever forms the next Government will be keen to maintain the pipeline of investment and investors by delivering certainty as best they can.

Alastair Evans
Public Affairs Manager