Creativity needed in nuclear power recruitment, report says

23 January 2019

In a bid to attract new talent, the nuclear sector is working to transform its image and new projects and technologies will “help shed outdated perceptions”, according to the latest Global Energy Talent Index (GETI) released yesterday. But, to truly succeed, nuclear companies will "need to be inventive with how they source and nurture their workforce", adds the energy recruitment and employment trends report, which is in its third year.

Workers in the control room of unit 5 at China's Yangjiang plant (Image: Yangjiang Nuclear Power Co)

The report is produced by Airswift, the global workforce solutions provider for the energy, process and infrastructure sectors, and Energy Jobline, the jobsite for the energy and engineering industries.

Their survey of more than 17,000 energy professionals found that 47% of nuclear professionals are worried about an "impending talent emergency". The sector has been tackling the issue by delaying the retirements of older professionals, but "this won’t work forever", the report says, because 28% of those surveyed who are aged 55 and older said they wouldn’t join the sector if starting their careers now.


Power provides the biggest source of competition for talent, the report says, with 36% of those open to switching sectors attracted to the industry, but digitalisation is helping, as is companies’ increasing willingness to recruit those without previous nuclear experience.

There is an "acute need for talent" in the nuclear sector, for two key reasons, the report says. First, certain roles are highly technical and specific to nuclear and these roles are "tough to fill". Second, the workforce is older than that in other energy sectors, with nearly a third of professionals aged 55 or older, compared to just 20% in oil and gas.

"Given that talent is in short supply, it’s no surprise that salaries continue to grow. Fifty-two per cent of non-hiring professionals said that remuneration increased over the past year, a slight increase from the 48% reported in the 2018 GETI report," it says.

Some 18% said that their pay rose by more than 5%, a figure that was above expectations. "More surprisingly", however, 12% reported a decrease in remuneration, which may have more to do with delayed retirements than with economic prospects, the report says.

"Any decrease in pay could easily come from older professionals who have moved from full-time to part-time roles," said Hannah Peet, managing director at Energy Jobline. "Rather than jumping head-first into retirement, professionals are opting to work part-time."

Hiring managers sided with other professionals in terms of salary changes over the last year. It’s worth noting that these managers were far more likely to report larger spikes in remuneration: 33% said that pay had risen by more than 5%, compared to just 18% among non-hiring professionals.

Across the board, the industry is optimistic about wage growth, the report says, with 66% of hiring managers and 64% of non-hiring professionals expecting increases over the next year. Hopes are “especially high” in Africa and the Middle East, where at least 80% of respondents predict that pay will rise.

Global mobility

Senior managers and executives in the nuclear sector typically stay with their companies for a long time. So younger professionals who are eager to progress into these roles are having to look elsewhere, the report says, and the "desire for advancement" is evident in this year’s global mobility data. Some 83% of professionals said they would consider relocating to another region and career progression was the leading driver behind a potential move.

The high percentage is surprising, says Janette Marx, CEO of Airswift, "considering how localised the nuclear workforce has been historically". She adds: "With the Middle East and Asia becoming hotbeds of new activity, we could see more professionals uprooting themselves to find better career opportunities."

There may be a "mismatch", however, between where workers want to go and where the opportunities are located, according to the report. Europe was the "region of choice" for potential moves, followed by North America.

"Ultimately, this mismatch could hasten a skills crunch and cause booming regions to struggle if more professionals aren’t willing to move where the opportunities are," says Marx.


Engineers are in high demand, it says, and about one-third of survey respondents said mechanical and electrical engineering were the areas most impacted by talent shortages. These roles have been challenging to fill owing to the "distinct requirements" of nuclear energy, it adds, but the solution "may not be as unattainable as hiring managers think".

Mechanical and electrical engineers from other areas of the energy industry have the core skills to succeed in nuclear, it says. "All that’s needed to fill any gaps is a robust nuclear-specific training programme, which most firms in the sector already provide," it adds.

Hiring managers are "warming up to the idea" of hiring individuals without nuclear backgrounds, while expanding apprenticeships and university graduate schemes is another approach that nuclear companies have been taking. The report notes an example in China, where a "chronic shortage" of professionals has inspired the creation of a ‘nuclear university’ dedicated solely to developing new nuclear talent.

Additionally, digitalisation will help "alleviate the pain" of any talent crunch, the report says. The operational efficiencies and cost savings achieved through automation would counteract what professionals deem to be the greatest risks of the skills gap, it adds.

Upskilling and re-training will be essential, it says, and clearer career progression is needed to attract the right talent.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News