Retiring employees, combined with the young workforce's waning interest in the field and a deficit of training programs in general, have contributed to the nuclear industry's growing skills gap. A recent report by GlobalData, Work Force Development to be a Top Priority for the Growth of Nuclear Industry, examines these converging factors. "There's a need to train and develop a skilled workforce in the nuclear value chain—across the entire industry," says Jennifer Santos, head of Power Consulting Services at GlobalData. "All areas are requiring a massive number of employees and the right quality of skills." These areas include construction, maintenance, safety, decommissioning, and research and development.
The report explains that a majority of existing nuclear countries need highly qualified individuals to maintain facilities, while the growing ranks of emerging nuclear countries require new staff to ensure safe and efficient operations. Santos explains that Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in March 2011 has elicited concerns regarding nuclear safety, and many countries are revamping their stringent nuclear standards as a result.
Cumulative installed nuclear capacity worldwide is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 3 percent from 2011 to 2020, with developing nations such as China, India, and Russia comprising most of future nuclear capacity additions.
Many countries already are taking steps to close the skills gap. Developed nations are collaborating with educational institutions and government to develop necessary training initiatives. In 2008, the French government established the French Council for Education and Training in Nuclear Energy to ensure the availability of nuclear manpower.
Until 2006, nuclear engineering and technology was the only specialization available to graduates in China. In 2007, as the need for nuclear engineers increased, the government added five additional courses: radiation protection and environment engineering, nuclear chemistry and fuel engineering, nuclear technology, nuclear reactor engineering, and nuclear physics.
Additionally, the report notes: "IAEA is helping countries to develop nuclear training programs to produce qualified staff for the future nuclear industry. All the countries which wish to develop nuclear power should introduce such training programs or educational courses in their education systems to help fulfill this pressing requirement."