Nuclear industry could create huge job opportunities in Norfolk and Suffolk

Thousands of jobs could be up for grabs in Norfolk and Suffolk with the building of two new power stations in the next decade - however a new report has warned a skills gap needs to be addressed to meet the demand.

The report by construction industry training board, Construction Skills, forecasts that the building of two nuclear power stations in Suffolk and Essex would create 6,000 construction jobs across the whole of the Eastern region and could return the construction sector to pre-recession levels by 2020.

But the industry is being warned to act now to ensure this region can take advantage of the jobs bonanza.

It is thought that if EDF Energy go ahead with plans for Sizewell C and get permission for the new station then initial construction work could start in 2015 with work on a station in Bradwell, Essex starting in 2017.

Amanda Sergeant, sector strategy manager for CITB-ConstructionSkills in the Eastern region, said: 'The New Nuclear Build projects in the East of England could breathe new life into the local construction industry, but to benefit firms need to ensure that is has the right skills to be able to meet the demands. Safety considerations are far more prominent and complex than in other industries and need to be fully understood. Therefore it is vital that East of England construction contractors in the bidding run for the New Nuclear Build programme are involved early with us. In striving to develop and prepare the future nuclear workforce we are working to help business succeed and grow.

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'We need to appreciate the current strengths and weaknesses of the skills base and promote effective training planning with employers and trade unions, ensuring that the East of England Supply Chain is ready to play its part in the 'nuclear' renaissance.'

During the construction period of the current power station Sizewell B - which is the most recent nuclear reactor to be built in the UK involved more than 3,000 UK companies, with 690 from East Anglia.

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During the peak construction phase more than 5,000 people were employed, with a large proportion from the local area.

An EDF Spokesman said: ''A new nuclear power station in Suffolk would bring a welcome boost to the local and regional economy and support employment, skills, economic and wider community benefits to Suffolk as a whole.

'The Sizewell C project is at a very early stage, but if the project was to go ahead we would expect the creation of approximately 5,000 jobs during the peak construction phase and 900 jobs during its 60 years of operation.

'We will work closely with the relevant authorities and chambers of commerce to ensure that maximum local benefit is achieved from the procurement of goods and services for the construction and operation of the power station; training opportunities for the long term development of skills; and the potential future use of local facilities that can be left after construction.'

EDF already runs recruitment programmes and graduate schemes, industrial placements and internships within the industry.

Great Yarmouth College invested in a �6m construction training centre, the Kier Building, two years ago to provide the latest facilities to train for the changing industry and faculty director of construction and engineering Keith Dixon said the college was ready to meet the challenge.

'We train young people and adults for careers in both the engineering and construction sectors, providing skills in construction, electrical and mechanical engineering disciplines including pipework, fabrication and welding. We have a large, three-storey state-of-the-art training centre to accommodate the changing needs of the industry.

'The college is keen to develop new partnerships to move forward its agenda of getting more local people into work in the energy sector and is already working on projects such as a new engineering skills centre in Great Yarmouth, a proposed energy skills centre in the area and an energy pre-apprenticeship programme in Great Yarmouth College.'

Celia Anderson, executive director of EEEGR's Skills For Energy Programme, said there were new business opportunities for companies and for people at all skill levels in this region.

'We have some really exciting times ahead of us,' she said. 'There is help out there for companies to find out how to get involved although the best starting point is get involved with the build at Hinkley Point. But they need to increase their procurement skills to win the business in new sectors, and raise their contract and project management skills for when they do. Working at Sizewell and Bradwell will stand them in good stead for the other five future planned nuclear new builds in England.

'Construction of Sizewell C and Bradwell will increase the demand for engineers, particularly mechanical and electrical, at a time that they will also be needed in the offshore industry. That is why the Energy Skills Foundation pre-apprenticeship at Lowestoft College are so important to bring youngsters into the industry. Next year we hope to see it rolled out to Colchester Institute and Great Yarmouth College. But we need more home-grown engineers to work here and ideally also export their skills to elsewhere in UK.'

EDF Energy has tasked Norfolk and Suffolk chambers of commerce with ensuring the supply chain for the new power stations is a local as possible.

Chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, Caroline Williams, said: 'It is important that businesses are aware of the opportunities in order to be able to make sure they understand the requirement of EDF to be ready to take advantage of the business.

'One of the key areas is understanding the culture of safety which is not just a health and safety tick the box. They really believe in the safety culture. If businesses want to have any chance of dealing with EDF that is the sort of thing that we need to work with local suppliers on.'

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