Office for Nuclear Regulation

The positive impacts of apprenticeships upon the UK’s nuclear industry

7 February, 2023

National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) 2023 is a chance to highlight the positive influence that apprenticeships make to people, businesses and the wider economy.

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) is keen to support young people through education into skilled work, maintaining that essential recruitment pipeline into this organisation to help keep the UK nuclear industry safe and secure.

ONR is passionate about helping people to grow, developing their careers, motivating them to learn new skills and developing a motivated and qualified workforce.

This week is the 16th annual celebration of apprenticeships, and this year’s theme is ‘Skills for Life’, reflecting on how apprenticeships can help people to develop the skills and knowledge required for a rewarding career.

It also focuses on the huge benefits to businesses to develop a talented workforce that is equipped with future-ready skills.

ONR has traditionally recruited staff with many years of experience in the nuclear industry.

But as with many industries, the skills gap affects the whole UK nuclear sector and ONR recognises the need to act to ensure workforce continuity.

Relying on traditional recruitment channels was not a viable long-term solution, so ONR introduced new talent pipelines to recruit and train the next generation of nuclear specialists and support staff.

Through the ONR apprenticeship programme, this brings both business administration and nuclear degree apprentices working across our organisation.

The scheme started in 2019, with apprentices working towards either their Business Administration NVQ or their five-year BEng (Hons) Degree in Nuclear Engineering, accredited by Lancaster University.

Meet four current ONR apprentices

Rhys Hulse

Rhys, 18, currently on placement in ONR’s civil nuclear security and safeguards division, said: “What appealed to me about this apprenticeships scheme was the opportunity to combine both academic study and ‘learning on the job.’

“The chance to begin building up my experience straight away was a big factor, something I wouldn’t have been able to do if I’d chosen to go straight to university after leaving school.

“So far, I’ve had the chance to do a lot of practical work at college, including welding, electrical work, and even plumbing, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed.

“At college, I’m working alongside other nuclear apprentices from a range of different organisations across the sector, which has been great for networking.”

Aquil Rodrigues

Aquil, 19, has been at ONR for five months, and last summer gained A-levels in physics, maths and history.

She said: “I’d always had an interest in nuclear, at the moment it’s very current, there’s lots happening in the sector and a lot to learn.

“I always enjoyed it when my school physics teacher related the theory to practical applications in the real world. It’s rewarding when I look at something from work and relate it to something I’ve studied at college.

“There’s a lot of experienced people at ONR who have been in the industry for decades so many of the topics that we look at are technical. It’s challenging, but in a good way.

“Everyone here at ONR is really enthusiastic about the work they do, very friendly, expressing an interest in our careers and are happy to talk to us to help in any way they can.”

Emily Bibby

Emily joined the ONR apprenticeship programme in April 2021 and is now working towards a Level 3 Business Administration Apprenticeship, with 20 per cent of her working week dedicated to her studies, supported by tutors and assessors.

Here, she works for the Divisional Delivery Support team within the Operating Facilities Division.

The 26-year-old said: “I support inspectors with a range of tasks such as ensuring reports are compliant and approved with all partners and setting up meetings and taking minutes during meetings.

“My manager has been helpful to me while learning the role and also through my NVQ activity, from enabling me to complete my assignments and feedback sessions to seeing what can be improved for future apprentices.

“Since starting at ONR I have developed my communications skills, knowing how to address a range of different people both in person and through other methods. I also feel more confident the more I have learnt and experienced.”

Liam Curran

Liam, 20, joined the ONR apprenticeship programme in 2021, working in the Divisional Delivery Support team as he completes his NVQ in business administration.

He has been working on ONR’s development of the WIReD project (Well-Informed Regulatory Decisions) – an information repository and single digital platform to store regulatory information – and also deals with ONR’s inspection data.

The 20-year-old said: “Joining ONR helped me strengthen my existing skills in a large organisation and also learn new skills and knowledge through my NVQ.

“For anyone considering an apprenticeship scheme, I’d say, think about what you want to do going forwards and where you want to take your career once you have completed your apprenticeship.

“Find out as much as you can about the role you would be doing and the education side of things to make sure it is the right fit for you. Then, once you’ve decided the right apprenticeship for you, get stuck in and give it your all.”