Assessing the Future Workforce Supply for the UK Nuclear Sector

Client Organisation

Cogent Skills

Cogent Skills works to promote an employer owned skills system, be a source of information and intelligence on skills and a respected and sought after employer voice on skills policy.  Cogent perform workforce analysis to improve national workforce skill availability.

Cogent Skills acts as the strategic partner to industry and provider of support to the Nuclear Skills Strategy Group (NSSG). The NSSG consists of key employers and government representatives across the civil and defence nuclear sectors. Its primary role is to develop a nuclear skills strategy to secure the required supply of qualified and competent personnel


A highly skilled workforce of approximately 80,000 full time equivalents is currently employed within the UK nuclear sector in a range of occupations that includes scientists, engineers, project managers and other technical and executive staff.

In order that the industry can best meet the needs of future nuclear programmes, an understanding of the workforce supply and demand is required, such that strategic decisions can be taken now, which will enable the forecast demand to be satisfied.

The nuclear industry generally operates on comparatively long time scales, with major projects defined and planned many years in advance. However, the UK’s carbon-zero target has introduced new opportunities for nuclear power, using both conventional large-scale plant and new technologies.

Small and Advanced modular reactors can generate hydrogen and supply district heat, in addition to generating electricity. Modular construction reduces the time to operation and combines with manufacturing economies of scale to simplify financing models. With a likely shift towards more distributed plant, the overall workforce demand requires constant review.

While the demand is subject to change, it remains the easier part of the equation to determine. More difficult is the supply side, given multiple workforce entry points and a range of occupations, role levels and in-post training latencies to factor in. To handle this large parameter space and support the development of better supply projections, Cogent Skills commissioned Decision Analysis Services Ltd (DAS) to produce a System Dynamics based workforce supply model.

How the work was done

DAS provided specialist modelling expertise in order to develop the new workforce supply model.  The aim was to provide a model that enabled Cogent to perform enhanced supply side strategic analysis, including the ability to carry out leverage analysis of potential national policies.

The model was developed based on international best practises in model development, including explicit stages for scoping, construction, testing and documentation.

The conceptual basis for the model was developed through workshops with the project stakeholder group. This resulted in a graphical representation of the complex workforce system, including all the major workforce stocks and flows.

The conceptual model became the basis for the simulation model which was developed using specialist software tools.
The completed model underwent significant independent testing to demonstrate that it was ‘fit for purpose’.

Key Conclusions and Recommendations

The System Dynamics based model enables much deeper analysis of the future national workforce supply in seconds. For example it:

  • Enables the complex workforce system to be better understood and its behaviour over time to be simulated
  • Allows scenarios to be designed that can in turn inform policy decisions on the level and timing of training and recruitment to meet the UK nuclear programme
  • Considers all possible training and industrial supply pipelines, feeding up to 25 different occupations at eight different levels, segmentation by region
  • Represents explicit apprenticeship, degree apprenticeship, degree, higher degree and industry transfer stocks
  • Includes the delays associated with onsite and offsite training, retraining and reskilling and security clearances
  • Takes into account the attrition rate at each stage of the pipeline

This flexible tool will enable industry and government to gain real insight through the application of scenario modelling, enabling policy makers to make strategic decisions grounded in solid analysis.

The model is currently being used by NSSG to evaluate national training requirements, with optimisation approaches being used to determine the required training inputs to meet future demand.

Further information


Siôn Cave

Steve Bennett