U.K. science fair connects students to a nuclear future

November 16, 2023, 12:01PMNuclear News

About 150 students attended the first ever Nuclear Connection Science Fair last week, held in Oxford, U.K., and hosted by Nuclear Waste Services (NWS) and Women in Nuclear (WiN UK).

The event offered students the opportunity to learn more about career prospects in the nuclear community and provided time to interact with professionals working in the industry.

Students, teachers, parents, and guardians from four secondary schools attended the fair.

What was there? The event included interactive games and activities with nuclear professionals and talks by key industry figures. Some students participated in a poster competition that was open ahead of the event, with the winners presented with prizes. It also provided the opportunity to arrange work experience placements with nuclear industry players.

They said it: “I think this event is really productive, inspiring, and educational because it inspires lots of girls like me to join this career path,” said a student who attended the fair. “It’s definitely inspired me to think more about careers in science—there’s a wide variety of careers in science, for example engineering, it just inspires me to delve into science and the scientific field and explore more.”

Louise Honeyman, event organizer, coleader for WiN UK Central England, and business manager at NWS, said, This was a chance to get young people still in education really fired up about science–and set them up with opportunities to pursue their passions.”

She added, “As nuclear ambitions develop here in the U.K., alongside plans for the long-term disposal of nuclear waste, there is a real concern over a future skills shortage in the industry as more jobs in nuclear are expected to be created. There is a very real need to attract more young people into nuclear, and more specifically the nuclear waste sector.”

Honeyman called the event a great success. “It was fantastic to see so many young people eagerly engaged and keen to learn about a career in the nuclear industry—and we are keen to attract them,” she said. “There are a huge range of careers on offer in the sector, looking for a variety of different skill sets. It’s an exciting, expanding and rewarding industry to work in.”

The need: The nuclear industry underpins hundreds of thousands of jobs across the United Kingdom, both directly and through the extended supply chain, and is growing rapidly. Nuclear has a variety of roles ranging from technical scientific and engineering roles to logistics, project management, commercial and finance—with a range of apprentice and graduate opportunities.

Preparation: The U.K.’s Nuclear Skills Strategy Group was set up a few years ago to look at the country’s long-term skills needs. The group consists of major employers in the nuclear sector, government departments responsible for nuclear development and skills leadership, and trade unions in the nuclear industries.

The group is one of the organizations involved in developing the Destination Nuclear campaign, which is designed to attract people to the sector. The project is expected to launch early next year and is being supported by industry entities including the U.K. Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

A Nuclear Skills Taskforce was set up recently to address how the United Kingdom can continue to build nuclear skills across its defense and civil workforce.

The NDA has a track record in investing in early career development, each year investing more than £45 million (about $56 million) in apprentice and graduate development.

About NWS: NWS was created by and is part of the NDA "to make nuclear waste permanently safe, sooner,” according to the company.

NWS has an apprenticeship program that offers a variety of work experience opportunities and recruits graduates through the NDA'S graduate program. It also upskills current employees with university degrees and leadership programs to build the skills base in house.

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