Virtual nuclear reactor will help learners acquire skills to enter the nuclear industry, with help from Ufi's VocTech Impact funding

It was a packed house with standing room only at the opening of the new National College for Nuclear (NCfN) Southern hub, based on the Cannington campus of Bridgwater and Taunton College. The newly built, state-of-the-art facility has been designed to deliver world-class training and skills development for the nuclear industry, in collaboration with EDF, and using an innovative curriculum funded by Ufi Charitable Trust and the Edge Foundation.

With the construction of the UK’s newest nuclear power station, Hinkley Point C, just a few miles from the college, the nuclear industry has a skills challenge ahead of them – according to Becky Pleasant (ECITB and Nuclear Skills Strategy Group) the sector requires 30,000 skilled roles over the coming years, which translates to 7,000 roles each year, double the current rate.

Becky went on to explain how this generation of learners have expectations about how they learn new skills that are very different to previous generations. She stressed the importance of looking for effective alternatives to traditional classroom learning, that includes using technology to develop high quality training which is flexible, innovative, relevant, timely, bite sized and easy to access.

A particular challenge for the nuclear industry is how to deliver training in a high risk, licensed environment where mistakes cannot be allowed to happen. Bridgwater & Taunton College’s innovative curriculum and learning solution has the potential to be applied across many industries around the UK and wider. With the help of Ufi’s VocTech Impact fund, the College are developing a physical replica of a nuclear reactor and combining with Virtual Reality scenarios, will allow students to experience working inside a nuclear reactor but in a risk-free and safe environment.

Industry training has previously only been available to those already within the sector. The College’s innovative approach creates a new vocational pathway, opening up access to those not currently in the industry, be that those looking to transfer their skills from other industries such as oil and gas, young people leaving school or mature students looking to retrain for a new career. The project has enabled the traditional curriculum to be turned on its head – the course enables different levels of students, from level 2 apprentices right through to undergraduates, and from different disciplines to work alongside and learn from each other. In doing so, Ufi hopes that, as well as helping train up the next generation of skills for the nuclear industry, other industries will be able to learn from the project’s experience, so that they too can implement high quality and effective learning for their sectors.

More information on Ufi's funding calls for 2018 can be found here.