What initially caught my eye about the nucleargraduates scheme was the sheer variety of things you could do. The scheme was a chance for me to go into a new industry with entirely fresh eyes – over two years, I was able to carry out four placements at different employers across the nuclear industry.
Working part-time at a supermarket, I had to be independent, able to adapt to a fast-paced environment and able to lead more junior members of staff. These skills came in handy during the group exercises at the two-day nucleargraduates assessment centre. Many of my group members were very quiet and I realised that I needed to adapt my communication style and start throwing out more ideas and actively facilitating the other members. I later heard that this really made me stand out from other candidates.
From labs to Whitehall
The best thing about the scheme is the ability to explore the aspects of the nuclear industry that most interested me. My first placement was spent with my sponsor employer Rolls-Royce. At first, I worked on the mechanical justification of components (both in terms of function and safety) and whether they would work when put into practical use. After four months I was able to move into another role as a stress analyst.
After my first placement, I could decide where I wanted to spend my next placements. I knew I wanted to do something completely different for my second placement: I organised a six-month placement as a policy adviser at the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, where I helped the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority work effectively with its stakeholders to set policy and prepare statements and responses for ministers to use in parliament. This environment took some time to adapt to, but it was worth it to be able to prepare and lead a meeting with a secretary of state – it’s not the sort of thing that many people get to do.
I’ve been able to do things on the nucleargraduates scheme that I’d never thought I’d be able to do. A group of other graduates and I put together a children’s book about the different sources of energy for charity – and we ended up selling around 1,300 copies, raising over £5,000.
We also visited Ukraine to learn more about the international nuclear industry. The country still has a large dependency on nuclear power and we met with power companies and local organisations to see how nuclear power is promoted and used. We also visited Chernobyl, which was a chance to see what can happen when proper safety culture is not adhered to and gave us a sense of perspective of how important safety is in the nuclear, or any, industry.
Build your network
Don’t underestimate the power of networking. Even if it doesn’t pay off right away, building relationships can have benefits in the long term. For example, I was able to get in touch with a contact from my Civil Service placement who I knew worked in the research field and, because we already had a relationship, he offered me my fourth placement there and then on the phone.
My big networking tip is to do some wider reading about the industry and to find a topic that you’re passionate about – this has really helped me to connect with more senior people in the industry as a graduate. For example, I became really interested in the growing area of ‘small reactors’, which are potentially a very big asset for a carbon-neutral future.
Big career plans
I’ve now begun a permanent role in the same team where I did my first placement. My role is perfect for me to hit the competencies I need to attain chartership with the Institute of Mechanical Engineers. Rolls-Royce has a team working on small reactors which is somewhere that I’d like to be able to work at some point in the future.
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