Case Study : Sellafield Risley Design Apprenticeships

For many years the UKAEA Risley Apprentice Training School in Cheshire had recruited a number of Design Apprentices to work on projects related most notably to BNFL’s Sellafield site.

However, with a number of major projects coming to an end they reduced Apprentice numbers and by 1992 had stopped recruiting in this area completely.

This led to a shortage of skills; while on the one hand graduates were coming through, these were felt to lack some of the vital practical skills required, and on the other hand the workforce continued to get older to the point where over 50% of the design engineers were over 50 years old. Raj Thakor, HR Manager at Nuvia, observes:

“Whilst a number of companies within the sector have graduate schemes, it clearly isn’t sufficient. A number of companies thought about introducing an Engineering Design Apprenticeship based on the UKAEA Scheme; individuals who came through the UKAEA Apprenticeship scheme are now Managers / Directors within several different nuclear companies and wanted to introduce a new scheme based on that past experience.”

With these demographic issues, Sellafield’s management (prompted in part by the involvement of the unions) decided that re-starting their Apprenticeship scheme was crucial. This was further supported by members of Sellafield’s supply chain including Nuvia and VT Nuclear Services (now Cavendish Nuclear). The first cohort of new Design Apprentices was therefore recruited with a view to starting in 2009.

The Benefits of Membership

Commercial Benefits

Based on the conversations with Sellafield and their partners, NSAN identified a need for further provision around design and approached Training 2000 to identify a means of plugging that gap. Paul Duerden, Training 2000’s Business Leader for Engineering, comments:

“Because we were part of the Academy we were involved in that discussion and from there we went on to look at qualifications frameworks, how we could deliver them and what we could offer. NSAN still facilitates our relationships with those businesses.”

Productivity Benefits

Paul describes the benefits both to Training 2000 and to employers of their engagement with NSAN:

“They bring us a network – we are informed about what is required and of what is happening in the industry much earlier than we would normally have had previously – which means we can react and have the programmes in place at a much earlier stage.

It gives us that competitive edge. It also means that we have been able to modify the programmes to meet employers’ needs quicker than we would have been able to do if we weren’t in that forum.”

Paul describes it as an opportunity to do business with large employers, and notes that because of the relationship with NSAN they have been able to expand their discussions with those employers beyond Design Apprenticeships and into other areas as well.

Training 2000 invest a certain amount of time and money in their relationship with NSAN; in addition to their provider membership fee they also invest a total of approximately 6 working days per year.

Paul is convinced (and conversations with the employers bear this out) that without NSAN’s facilitation and expert guidance, none of the Risley Design Apprentices would be trained by them.

For more detailed information on this case study, please download the Value of a Long-Term Relationship report.