Time and Tide Wait for No Graduate

For the last six months I have been seconded to the NIA as part of the nucleargraduate scheme, and now my time is now up.

The NIA does things differently to industry, I remember thinking when I was given my first piece of work – you want this back today!?! First days in a new office are always exciting but on mine, Keith Parker took me to watch the Energy Minister, Andrea Leadsom, speak to a small gathering of nuclear energy supporters. Not your average day in the office I was used to.

Six months in London has been great, and was something I always wanted to do. But now the tube has less of its iconic appeal – I guess being stuffed into a confined space quickly loses its charm.

For a small office the NIA is always buzzing with members, Government folk and other people coming and going. Except for Friday afternoons when the rest of the industry has gone home (one of the downsides of the London lifestyle is clocking off at 5pm on Friday). But for a little organisation they get a lot done, so there has always been something to do.

The placement has given me a unique view of the industry, how it communicates and interacts. I’ve enjoyed representing the NIA at a number of events especially the Big Bang Fair where I spoke myself hoarse talking to children about nuclear power. It has also been a great pleasure meeting the members of the NIA and learning how we all fit into the nuclear jigsaw.

Learning about Government and getting involved in public affairs work has been eye opening for a politics wonk like me. Although I maybe ill-suited to it in the long run because of my rather ardent opinions which I find hard supressing.

As an engineer this placement has been a steep learning curve. I’ve gained a much better understanding of the subtleties of communication which I think I will benefit from in my future career. The NIA has some very high standards but I’ve been helped to achieve them through support from people in the office, especially Sara Crane and Rupert Lewis.

All of the team have been very welcoming and I very quickly felt at home. Everyone has always been ready and willing to help when I’ve asked. Each day has been different and at the NIA you have to get stuck into absolutely everything.

This opportunity is testament to the nuclear industry’s commitment to career development. I don’t think there are many other industries where so early on you can gain from many amazing experiences.

But alas the march of time goes on and I’m off, first and most importantly on holiday, then to another placement which will hopefully be as enlightening, challenging and entertaining as my time at the NIA.

Alex Bending
nucleargraduate

Money talks?

Somerset will be the home for the UK’s first new nuclear power station for a generation and to mark this, the Nuclear Industry Association’s new build group travelled to the county for its latest meeting.

As is normal at these events, updates were given by each of the UK’s new build developers, and a number of other issues were touched upon including small modular reactors, cyber-security and the popular ‘sell-yourself’ taster sessions.

Not to gloss over those presentations but what really brought the event to life was the Hinkley Point C (HPC) site tour.

If you read the newspapers and especially if you read The Times, you probably have an image in your head of HPC as a dormant, muddy wasteland. This could not be more wrong.

Over 600 workers are currently on site carrying out the remediation works, preparing the site for the ‘real’ work to begin. A batching plant was up and running, testing the concrete which will be used for the project, a bypass has already been constructed as well as a vast park and ride area being used to transport workers to and from site.

But this is very much only the beginning and once the final investment decision for the project has been made, the number of workers on site will quickly ramp up to almost 6,000 – a daunting prospect for the catering team!

The following day, the new build group’s Chairman Brian McConnell held an open discussion with delegates on the future of the industry. One of the areas discussed was how do the UK’s nuclear developers attract the brightest and best construction workers.

EDF Energy’s vision is to create an environment which offers long-term, highly-skilled, high value careers. Moreover nuclear construction projects are unique in that they take years rather than months and offer workers to chance to build a home and embed themselves within a community.

However one opinion amongst the audience was that the main driver for workers is simple, and it is money. The argument is that the Government is about to embark on a huge nuclear new build programme as well as a number of other construction projects which all demand the same skills. With ultimately the highest bidder winning out.

If this is to be the case, and for many people, money is an important and not unreasonable factor to taking a job – it will be a huge issue for the whole construction sector. If a developers’ workers feel they can demand £2, £4 or more an hour because of competing projects, the cost of any development has the potential to spiral.

To counter this largely cynical (but maybe correct) outlook, Brian McConnell pointed to the story of JFK’s trip to Cape Canaveral. There the President met a man in overalls cleaning the site and asked him “What do you do here?” the man replied “Mr President, I’m helping to put a man on the moon.” EDF Energy are trying to create the same passion amongst their workers at HPC and I do hope they succeed.

 

Rupert LewisRupert Lewis
Public Affairs and Communications Executive