Building Cumbria’s Workforce and Future Community


We all rate job security as a priority, but for Sellafield and the county of Cumbria an important issue is workforce security. Programme and Project Partners (PPP) has the objective to deliver major decommissioning projects over the next 20 years at Sellafield – a timespan equal to half of a person’s career. That means the success of the PPP model depends on building and maintaining a pool of diverse talent in Cumbria on a commensurate time horizon.

Focusing on the human aspect is Thomas Thor Associates, an SME dedicated to providing recruitment, executive search and consulting to the nuclear industry, but this is a little different. “This is not about finding the right people to fill seats,” said Lisa Stanger, a Principal Consultant at the company, “This is about finding the future generation that will deliver the mission of Sellafield and be part of the community in Cumbria.”

“We recognise that Sellafield wants to improve its project delivery performance in a fundamental way by bringing in new ways of doing things – new ideas and different thought processes,” said Tony Cole, Major Projects Manager, “They want to bring in more cognitive diversity, and Thomas Thor is committed to playing a significant role in delivering this future vision over the next two decades.”

“Our role is to integrate within PPP to deliver for Sellafield and stakeholders in the local community,” said Lisa, “bringing an influx of people with fresh talent.”

Having set up an office in nearby Cleator Moor, the team recruits locally first, paying attention to the many people in the area who have long wanted to work in the nuclear industry. “Part of it is identifying people in the area who can be cross-trained or re-trained,” said Callum Thomas, CEO of Thomas Thor. When it needs to look further afield, the team naturally calls on Thomas Thor’s network of nine offices with access to nuclear skilled candidates worldwide.

There is also a strategy to bring relevant global talent from outside the nuclear industry to Cumbria. “Every nuclear project needs people experienced in project controls,” said Callum. “And there are talented project controls professionals all over the world that have been successful in other industries. We are actively building a talent pool of project controls professionals with an interest in moving to Cumbria in the coming years. When building this talent pool we are ensuring that the diversity of people within it reflects Sellafield’s diversity objectives in the coming years. There is a huge benefit in having 50-60 diverse project controls professionals pre-qualified for permanent relocation to Cumbria rather than recruiting in the traditional reactive way. The focus is to find workers who will relocate to Cumbria and bring long term value to the local community rather than workers travelling in and out each week.’

The team has already brought talented people to the Cumbrian nuclear sector from other industries overseas on the basis of family connections to the area. If the interest is there, for whatever reason, “We can go further,” said Callum, “Having a 20-year timeframe brings many benefits from longer term thinking and planning. For example, we might be able to develop training programmes that create a pipeline of talent for anticipated needs.”

Vital to both approaches will be collaboration with existing social initiatives. Thomas Thor wants to complement the existing network of social initiatives which are already doing good work in the county. An immediate goal is to collaborate with that network to provide a localisation service to support people and their families moving to Cumbria and settling down.

Tony said, “PPP is about outcomes and delivering value for money and innovation, not just new technologies but also new techniques. It’s about doing it differently but better. Our role is to bring ‘value add’ by delivering our standard services in a new and innovative way. It’s also about stretching our own capabilities by delivering more and expanding our own ‘local’ footprint as we support PPP in its growth, bringing more to the local community.

A significant part of the next 20 years of Sellafield depends on the success of PPP, while the overall programme of work still stretches more than a lifetime at 100 years. Success on these timescales will be as much about the success of Cumbrian communities as it is about success on-site.

This article was first published on the website of the UK Nuclear Industry Association here.

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