Westinghouse Joins Apprentice Trailblazer Group

Westinghouse Springfields has joined a government-backed Nuclear Apprenticeship Trailblazer Group to help train the next generation of nuclear engineers.

Late in 2014, the government announced a new programme called Degree Apprenticeships in a number of fields, including nuclear engineering. Because of its long tradition offering engineering apprenticeships, Westinghouse Springfields was chosen as one of the initial members of the Trailblazer Group to help develop the new programme.

In early March Site Training Manager, Susan Walker, attended a meeting at 10 Downing Street along with other employers and educational/training institutions from across the nuclear industry to discuss progress on the scheme’s development. The meeting was chaired by Philip Dunne, Minister for Defence Equipment, Support & Technology.

Photo:- Susan Walker, Springfields Training Manager, (fourth from right on the front row) joins members of the Nuclear Trailblazer Group at No. 10 Downing Street.
The Trailblazer Group comprises a number of companies in addition to Westinghouse, including Sellafield Ltd, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, EDF Energy, National Nuclear Laboratory and National Skills Academy for Nuclear (NSAN).

The Degree Apprenticeship will enable graduates to undertake a broad range of engineering training and technical specialist roles in the nuclear sector, to ensure that the industry continues to employ highly skilled and professionally qualified personnel and to close anticipated capability gaps for the industry in the UK.

The scheme will provide a balanced approach for work-based training and academic achievement.

Apprentices will be employed throughout, and spend part of their time at university and part with their employer. Employers and universities will have the flexibility to decide how best to structure this, e.g. via day release or block release.

Apprentices on the scheme will be employed and paid a wage throughout. They will gain a full degree (bachelor’s or master’s) without incurring student fees or taking on a loan.

“Degree Apprenticeships are a new model bringing together the best of higher and vocational education, and will be a partnership involving employers, universities, and professional bodies,” explained Susan Walker. “It is exciting to be involved in the early stages of their development and in something which will ultimately benefit the nuclear industry in the UK.”

She added: “The next steps will include the smaller working group, of which Westinghouse is a member, preparing a proposed standard by June and gauging a likely demand from employers, with a view to start the apprenticeships in September 2016.”

The government will fund two-thirds of the costs of the training and course fees, whilst employers will pay apprentices a wage and contribute the other third of the costs.

Since the Springfields Apprentice Training Scheme began in 1950, over 1,800 apprentices have successfully completed the Apprentice Training programme, including 25 percent of the current workforce.