The Open University and the National Skills Academy for Nuclear: a new training certificate for tomorrow’s nuclear professionals

The Open University and the National Skills Academy for Nuclear: a new training certificate for tomorrow’s nuclear professionals

When the National Skills Academy identified a graduate skills gap in the valuable nuclear sector, they partnered with The Open University to create a programme that could address it.

This case study originally appeared on page 8 of the State of the Relationship 2014. The report outlines the state of university-business collaboration in the UK, featuring expert views and over forty case studies. Read the full report.

The UK’s nuclear industry employs more than 40,000 people and generates almost a fifth of the country’s electricity. As older nuclear power plants are decommissioned and plans created for new ones to be built, the industry found that it needed new ways to equip engineers with the necessary skills. The Open University’s work with the National Skills Academy for Nuclear has opened a new pathway for the nuclear professionals of the future with the Certificate in Nuclear Professionalism (CoNP).

Jean Llewellyn OBE, Chief Executive of the National Skills Academy for Nuclear says the partnership began because employers were having issues with the skills of graduate entrants. “They were not getting the ‘workready’ graduates they needed,” she says, “specifically around communication, project management, team leadership, commercial awareness and some technical nuclear skills. So The National Skills Academy for Nuclear started working with employers to understand exactly what skills were needed. It was decided we needed a flexible new programme for the industry that could be rolled out across the country. The Open University’s accessibility and expertise made it the ideal lead partner.”

The Open University has been involved from day one and helped the academy develop the overarching programme. This course was developed with feedback from the academy’s 100 employer members across the nuclear industry. The key issue that emerged from this feedback was that employers wanted generic engineers and scientists - not necessarily those with nuclear specific degrees, but rather entrants who understood the industry and held ‘softer’ skills. While graduates technical skills and knowledge may have been high, the commercial skills needed to cost or manage a project were lacking.

“The partnership is an innovative training model and a unique collaboration between industry and university,” says Llewellyn. “I don’t believe something like this has been developed before. I see this qualification becoming the UK’s benchmark for nuclear professionalism with the potential to become globally recognised.”

Magnox Ltd is the largest employer sponsor of the qualification with more than 30 employees undertaking the programme, including the first graduates to receive the certificate.

“This qualification provides our high potential graduates with the core skills essential to our nuclear decommissioning business. What makes this programme different is its ability to support us in developing ‘nuclear professionalism’. Some of our graduates are the first to complete in the country – which is a key achievement for us.” Mandy Walker, L&D Manager, Magnox Ltd

The successful Certificate of Nuclear Professionalism qualification was recognized with an award from the influential Nuclear Engineering International magazine in its first year of presentation. Award judge Ulrik von Estorff, operating agent at the European Human Resources Observatory for the Nuclear Energy Sector, called the The CoNP “a very innovative and professional course with a high involvement of the nuclear industry in its design.”

Find out more about the Certificate in Nuclear Professionalism.

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