Rolls-Royce Submarines Ltd celebrated the launch of its new Nuclear Skills Academy, developed with partners including the University of Derby, at an event in the House of Lords. More than 150 representatives from the Houses of Commons, House of Lords and across industry attended to hear how the British engineering firm is investing in the nuclear experts of the future.
The Nuclear Skills Academy is the first of its kind and opened its doors to 200 new apprentices on 26 September last year. Its aim is to sustain nuclear capability within the UK’s submarines programme by creating a dedicated pipeline of talent at the start of their careers.
Based in Derby, the Nuclear Skills Academy is supported by industry and education experts, including the University of Derby, the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, the National College for Nuclear and Derby City Council. This ensures new apprentices have access to the best courses and mentors throughout their apprenticeship.
The launch was supported by Keith Beckett CBE, Technical Director and Deputy CEO of the Submarine Delivery Agency, and Rolls-Royce apprentices, who shared their initial experiences of the academy, the nuclear industry and the benefits of enjoying free higher education through the apprentice route.
Rolls-Royce announced its plans for the Nuclear Skills Academy in May 2022 to huge interest from across the UK. With more than 1,200 applicants for only 200 places in its 2022-23 academic year it was a tough job to narrow down the successful candidates.
Steve Carlier, President, Rolls-Royce Submarines, said:
“We were thrilled by the levels of interest in these apprenticeships and the enthusiasm shown by our first intake of students. It highlights how attractive a career in the nuclear sector really is. With the growing demand for clean, carbon-free energy and with our submarines contracts with the MoD likely to sustain us into the next century, this could be a job for life for our new apprentices.
“Having started with Rolls-Royce as an apprentice myself and being born and bred in Derby, the launch to the Nuclear Skills Academy is especially exciting for me. I’m delighted that we are leading the way in developing nuclear talent for the submarines enterprise and proud that it will all be done in Derby.”
The Nuclear Skills Academy has the funding to provide 200 apprentices each year for a decade, with nuclear education across four different courses. The support of key industry organisations and MPs in driving the project forward has been invaluable for Rolls-Royce.
Andrew Storer from the Nuclear AMRC spoke of the importance of collaboration when it comes to this programme:
“We need to work together to tackle skills shortages which affect the whole nuclear sector. The organisations backing the Nuclear Skills Academy will ensure that apprentices have the best training and support and develop the skills to deliver the UK’s commitments for low-carbon power and national security. As a former Derby apprentice, I am very proud that we are helping set a new standard for training which could be rolled out across the sector.”
Helen Higgs, National College for Nuclear, said:
“The Nuclear Skills Academy is a significant development for the sector and the National College for Nuclear is delighted to be able to play a vital role in its creation and future development.
“Collaboration between ourselves, industry and education partners is at the heart of NCfN’s delivery model and our vision, and this is a fantastic example of how that partnership can bring about world-class opportunities for many apprentices.”
The apprenticeships are spread across four courses: Nuclear Engineering Degree Apprenticeship, Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship, Nuclear Engineering Technician Apprenticeship and Advanced Engineering Apprenticeship. They provide fully funded, further and higher education qualifications, while the apprentices receive hands-on practical work experience within the business.
Each of the courses are awarded by the University of Derby and endorsed by the National College for Nuclear.
Professor Kathryn Mitchell CBE DL, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Derby, said:
"Equipping the future workforce with the skills and knowledge required to assure a pipeline of talent into the nuclear industry is crucial; the University is delighted to be playing a key role in this.
"Derby is a city at the cutting edge of engineering and manufacturing, with an internationally renowned reputation as a centre for industrial innovation. The Academy will further strengthen this and is set to be a game-changer in how we respond, at pace, to the evolving skills needs of the country.”
The home of the Nuclear Skills Academy is an iconic building in Derby, formerly known as the iHub. The hope is to position the East Midlands as the centre of nuclear excellence in the UK, an aspiration Derby City Council is excited by.
Leader of Derby City Council, Councillor Chris Poulter said:
“This is an exciting opportunity for the people of Derby which will help to further build our reputation as a city of innovation. It is vital that we bring forward the next generation into the nuclear industry and apprenticeships are a fantastic way for those of all ages to earn while they learn.
“Additional funding worth £1.3m has been secured from Innovate UK to help fund bespoke training equipment and IT facilities for apprentices at the new training centre. The skills academy will also support key employers in the city and help to secure future talent in years to come.”
Applications for 2023-24 academic intake are now open.