Nuclear knowledge: a time of renewal
In today’s nuclear sector, there is a growing demand for skills at all levels. ALTEN is identifying needs, applying knowledge, and conducting training to help build the capacity required in the nuclear workforce.
Nuclear engineering skills are in need of reinforcement. “The sector has been on hold for the past few years and there is a shortage of skills on the market, while the demand is increasing, both nationally and internationally,” says Jean-Gabriel Yvert, Head of Technical Practices at ALTEN. It is estimated that 100,000 people will need to be recruited over the next ten years in France alone.
“We’re going to prepare our growth in nuclear both upskilling our young nuclear engineers and converting engineers without experience in this sector,” says Jérémy Ferain-Joux, Managing Director Energy, ALTEN. For the design of new nuclear power plants, the skills in demand will be largely in civil engineering, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering; the operation and maintenance of existing plants will also require specialized personnel.
To help respond to this growing demand, ALTEN has structured a new Practices Department around skills specific to technical professions such as nuclear engineering. A professional in the nuclear sector must apply a high level of technical knowledge in a high-risk environment.
“Our teams of specialists,” says Jean-Gabriel, “cultivate the expertise needed to meet a threefold skill challenge: understanding project needs and intervening effectively; offering high-level technical support to less experienced ALTEN teams; and training experts in the skills needed for the professions in high demand.”
“We need to structure ourselves in such a way as to be able to understand customer projects in their organizational dimension, which goes beyond the local, geographical framework,” continues Jean-Gabriel. “This means coordinating the management of our nuclear resources on a national scale, from identifying candidates to building skills and coordinating formation plans to meet technical and functional expectations.”
To support these objectives, ALTEN has reorganized its business lines, coordinating all French regional activities as well as international activities such as those in the United Kingdom from one single Business Unit. Across business lines, needs and challenges are associated with those of the Nuclear Engineering Practice.
The engineers of the future
ALTEN is banking on recruitment and training to attract and prepare the engineers of the future, playing a key role in the creation and management of skills ranging from the engineering professions to operations and including cross-disciplinary skills related to safety and security. Given the current shortage of engineers and the volume of the demand, the search cannot be limited to engineers with nuclear experience. “One of the major challenges is to achieve successful staffing with profiles from other sectors,” says Jean-Gabriel. “It’s what we call nuclearizing engineers. We’re talking about people who have knowledge and skills in related engineering areas – for example, a civil engineer who has worked in the oil and gas sector or a mechanical engineer with an aeronautical background. To them, we bring the nuclear layer so that they can work in these environments.”
This is the scope of the Nuclear ALTEN Academy led by the Practices Department. Engineers attending the Academy receive two to three months of training conducted jointly by staff from ALTEN and organizations specialized in the nuclear domain.
“We’re preparing for the growth in demand for nuclear energy by converting engineers without experience in this sector,” says Jérémy. “Thanks to our training program in the Nuclear ALTEN Academy, as well as those of partners such as ISTPIngénieurs, they will be able to choose among training branches, such as engineering studies in technical fields or nuclear power plant jobs.”
“Today, we have more and more customers who depend on our ability to train engineers in their sectors,” continues Jérémy. “By creating skills like this today, we’re responding to the needs of tomorrow.”
Retaining competence, instilling confidence
Nonetheless, it is not only a question of training; retaining these highly qualified professionals in the workforce – and the valuable resources they represent – calls for building loyalty and helping them to continue to grow and develop their knowledge. This is one of the missions of ALTEN’s Practices Department.
Furthermore, the renewal of the nuclear sector involves more than the design and implementation of new plants; it also calls for the dismantling of plants as they become outdated. “Much of the original French nuclear fleet is being renovated to enable continuing operation for the next decade or so,” says Jérémy.
ALTEN is determined to be a major player in creating the skills, providing the expertise, and developing the confidence required for the revival of the nuclear sector, developing and strengthening the capacity to support its clients on all levels, nationally and internationally.
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