OPINION: The age of the nuclear generation

Published: 16 Mar 2018 By Linda Yuan, Global Head of Sales at Energy Jobline

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The world’s nuclear industry is entering a period of rapid growth. It’s estimated that by 2035, 38% of the UK’s energy will come from nuclear power, with 500 more nuclear reactors to be commissioned across the world.

Despite this, the nuclear sector is facing a skills shortage crisis and the sizable challenge is being attributed to an ageing workforce, continued negative perceptions and a loss of talent to neighboring industries (according to the Global Energy Talent Index, the world’s largest energy workforce report). I wanted to highlight a few areas where the nuclear sector could seize new opportunities.

“The Global Energy Talent Index (GETI) claims this is a pivotal moment for those with hiring capabilities to review their methods in how they attract, retain and develop professionals. The industry must ensure its excellence is preserved in the years to follow."

 

Here come the girls?

GETI outlines the ageing workforce as the greatest challenge facing the nuclear sector at 65%- the highest percentage of the energy sectors. I believe hiring managers need to be more inclusive when considering where talent comes from. The diversification of the workforce is one contributing factor that needs strong attention to increase the proportion of women in the nuclear sector, which has the widest gender gap in the energy industry (says GETI).

 

Headcount imbalance

When looking specifically at the UK, the region’s existing expertise lies primarily in the operation and decommissioning of nuclear plants, rather than in construction. Furthermore, 74% of hiring managers indicated a reliance on implementing new training and development programmes to meet their needs for new skills.

Despite all of this, most hirers in the sector will only consider individuals with nuclear experience and the idea of training workers from other sectors is often overlooked. In addition to up-skilling its existing workforce, the industry will need to source professionals from outside its own sector and transfer similar skills. Role types such as Project Management and Construction can often be up-skilled to fulfill the differing career profile.

 

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

To stay in line with the fast digitalisation of the industry, hiring managers will need to consider hiring more professionals with a tech background, as cybersecurity is the most sought-after skill in nuclear (according to GETI, nearly three-quarters of hiring managers cite cybersecurity as a skill high-in-demand- far higher than the industry average). Additionally, workers between the ages of 25 and 44 see a growing need for the skills associated with more innovative technologies, such as data analytics and cloud technology.

The nuclear industry is famous for owning some of the most technologically advanced projects in the energy sector. Yet, poor perceptions of the industry are creating a barrier to entry among not only graduates but also experienced engineers and operators. Today’s projects are small-scale, cleaner and better at pairing AI and big data with human judgement and skill. Thus, companies need to better communicate how nuclear technology has evolved.

This poor perception may be correlated to how the sector markets employer brand, as two-thirds of hirers and professionals say the sector doesn't do a good job of marketing itself to potential talent. Among hiring managers, nuclear was the only sector where over half of respondents had a negative opinion on this topic for their sector.

 

GET-(I )with the times, Nuclear

However, GETI found for nuclear workers of all ages, the impact of flexible working (43%) and improved remuneration (41%), general working environment (46%) are leading causes of contentment in the industry. When asked what would aid in attracting talent, both workers (54%) and hirers (59%) pointed towards training. Better remuneration followed closely in second place (50%), with employers believing workers are enticed to work with cutting-edge technology (48%).

With innovative projects and excellent job security, there’s no reason why- if the above advantages are communicated effectively- the industry should have such a significant problem attracting new talent.

GETI also reflects on a high percentage of professionals that are open to moving to another sector (62% of respondents considering a move to a sister sector). Renewables is drawing much of the attention, especially among those aged between 25 and 44 years old. Interestingly, the aerospace industry is also appealing to a notable portion of younger professionals.

It’s now crucial that nuclear marketers refresh their methods of employer branding to prevent loss of talent to other industries. As progression and cutting-technology are already offered (albeit sector perceptions) there is a real opportunity out there to give the nuclear industry’s reputation the boost it needs.

For more information, visit www.getireport.com

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