Published: 9 Aug 2012

The CQI has identified an impending shortage of key quality skills in the nuclear industry.

Research commissioned by the CQI and published in 2012 shows there will soon be a critical shortage of skilled quality management professionals, who oversee risk, hazard and safety and assurance across the UK’s nuclear industry, unless urgent measures are put in place.

The research estimates that an additional 1,200 – 1,700 quality professionals will be required by 2021. However, the trigger points for skills shortages are much sooner. The convergence of the new build and decommissioning programmes means that the potential to transfer employees across from old sites to new ones will be limited. This is likely to contribute to a peak shortage in just three years’ time.

The average training period for a quality professional is two years. Set against the timescale for the development of new build and decommissioning, the CQI finds that urgent action is required from the industry and its regulatory bodies to ensure that appropriate training programmes are in place. The CQI is also calling for better monitoring and separate categorisation of quality professionals in the sector by the skills bodies.

CQI CEO Simon Feary says: 'Failure to sufficiently recognise and monitor this vital group could have a potentially devastating effect on the safe and efficient running of the UK’s nuclear plants and negatively impact on the sector’s ability to deliver its ambitious plans.

'Industry employers are already identifying difficulties in recruiting quality professionals, demonstrating that the industry must start to act now if it is to attract and train enough skilled quality employees.'

Geoff Edmondson, chair of the Nuclear Special Interest Group (NucSIG), says: 'The CQI, together with its Nuclear Special Interest Group, is carrying out a range of activities to ensure that quality management professionals are prioritised in the nuclear industry.

'As well as conducting specially designed in-house training courses and developing specific quality management competency sets for the nuclear industry, we are focusing on demonstrating the value of quality professionals in the sector and showing what a rewarding career quality management is for those entering the profession.

With these things in mind, the CQI has developed a dedicated careers guide for quality management across the nuclear industry.'

Compounding the issues around the commissioning and new build requirements, are the CQI’s findings that the quality professional in nuclear has an older profile than the rest of the industry workforce and, as a result, more than half of the existing workforce is due to retire in the next 10 years.

The CQI is calling on the nuclear industry skills bodies, Cogent and the National Skills Academy for Nuclear, to separately categorise and monitor quality professionals, operating in the sector in order to assess and plan for the demand of quality professionals across the nuclear sector.

The CQI also wants to work with employers and the sector skills bodies to ensure existing staff are trained and a new generation of quality professionals are attracted into the nuclear industry.

The CQI has more than 300 members operating in the nuclear sector and a very active special interest group (NucSIG). The CQI’s NucSIG has recently developed a Body of Nuclear Quality Knowledge outlining the competencies required for quality professionals working specifically in the nuclear industry.

In June 2012 the CQI launched an extensive piece of research examining current and future quality management skill shortages in the nuclear industry.

The report, commissioned by the CQI, finds the sector is facing a significant quality management skill shortage by 2015, if action is not taken immediately. This will threaten the convergence of new build and decommissioning nuclear sector projects.

In addition, the research finds that the older age profile of quality professionals in nuclear will result in over half the workforce retiring in the next decade, meaning that between 1200 and 1700 new professionals will need to be recruited and trained by 2021 to deliver future plans.

The report also identifies that currently, industry skills bodies and employers do not have sufficient measures in place to ensure that quality professionals are monitored and trained. The research recommends nuclear industry skills bodies, employers and regulators act urgently in order to avoid a critical skills shortfall in the sector.