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Project academy graduates are ‘first class’

Project Academy graduates group

[T]he first students have graduated from the ‘Project Academy for Sellafield’.

A group of 21 Sellafield Ltd employees are the first to have completed qualifications with the new academy, and were awarded at a ceremony in Carlisle Cathedral on Tuesday 18 July.

The Project Academy for Sellafield was launched a year ago to revolutionise the way people are trained to deliver projects at the nuclear site.

It is being delivered by the University of Cumbria, who secured the contract in 2016, along with six partners.

With 500 students on its books and a pass rate of 95%, it is far ahead of the national average and is helping Cumbria to become a hub of specialist skills, training and innovation.

Steve Livingstone, Projects Director for Sellafield, said; “Last year we saw the first students embark on their journey with the academy, and to see them graduate on Cumbrian soil with world class qualifications, makes us very proud.

“We are privileged to have developed a completely fresh concept for higher education and training and together with the University of Cumbria, we are increasing project capability not just for the nuclear industry, but for the UK.

The first students graduated with foundation degrees and accredited certificates in project controls, which they completed while continuing their day job at the nuclear site.

The academy offers accredited higher education qualifications covering many areas of project delivery such as quality, risk, commercial, project management and project controls.

Steve added; “Project delivery improvement is a key part of the transforming Sellafield, so to grow the next generation of project professionals on our doorstep demonstrates that we are becoming the centre of nuclear excellence.”

The courses are delivered in Cumbria through partners, which include, the University of Manchester, Furness College, Lakes College, Centre for Leadership and performance, 2020 ltd and Provek Ltd.

Members of the public and individuals within the supply chain can also enroll, meaning there will be more qualified project professionals throughout the whole region.

Professor Julie Mennell, Vice Chancellor at The University of Cumbria, said, “The project academy students have demonstrated fantastic commitment to their studies not least whilst continuing to undertake a full time role.  60% of our first cohort achieved distinction, with 100% passing.”

“Our relationship with Sellafield is significant for the University.  The project academy is one of our flagship projects with industry, and demonstrates our role with key employers and sectors to maximum the benefits of infrastructure investment in Cumbria to our communities.

The Sellafield site is a hive of construction activity, over the next few decades they need to build new facilities to bring the old ones down, and this requires a range of specialist skills.

Julie added: “Developing capacity and capability in project management, contributing to the successful delivery of projects and programmes on one of the world’s most complex nuclear site is both exciting and challenging.

“Our plans are to work with a range of partners across Cumbria and North Lancashire to further develop new and vibrant employer-based education to retain and attract new talent into the county”.

In addition to the academy, Sellafield Ltd has developed new schemes and pathways to grow project related skills. In 2013 they launched a Project Management apprenticeship, with the first ever apprentices due to complete their schemes later in the summer, following four years of training.

Case studies

Connor Dixon, 23 from Cockermouth was awarded the new ‘Ian Marr Trophy for Project Management Apprentice of the Year’, which has been named I honour of Ian Marr who developed the Project Academy concept and has worked at Sellafield Ltd since joining as an apprentice over 40 years ago.

Connor said “I am really honoured to receive this award, especially the first to have been named after Ian who is a great role model. I have enjoyed every minute of my studies, and the opportunities open to us to train in projects at Sellafield are brilliant. You only get out what you put in, so I would encourage others on the scheme to grab the opportunity with both hands.”

Sarah Tyson, aged 21 from Whitehaven, received a special ‘above and beyond’ award for using her project management skills to benefit the community as Chair of the young farmers event committee in Seascale; she said; “I was overwhelmed to receive this award on the same day as graduating from the academy. I really enjoy studying project management and applying the skills I have learned with the academy both inside outside of work ”

Robert Armstrong, aged 21 from Whitehaven completed his Foundation Degree with the academy, he said; “I have really enjoyed studying with the academy, and for it to be in Cumbria makes it so much easier to combine with my job at Sellafield. We have access to our lecturers at the University of Cumbria who have been brilliant and we can take the learning directly

James Sewell, aged 22 from Cockermouth works for Atkins and used the academy to change his career path. He said: “I previously completed an engineering apprenticeship but wanted to change my career and develop more leadership skills.

“I did some research and found out the Sellafield’s project academy was open to everyone, so I approached them and they gave me some great advice about which course would suit me best. Its great that people within the supply chain can use the academy to get really good qualifications.”

Claudia Taylor, aged 23 from Barrow said; “I joined the project academy as part of my apprenticeship and we were the first to use it to do our Foundation Degree. To have tutors and mentors from both Sellafield Ltd and the University of Cumbria supporting us throughout was brilliant. I definitely want to use the academy again in the future to further develop my career.”

Wayne Cook, aged 41 from Harrington said: “The project academy came at a really good time for me as I had moved into a risk management role at Sellafield and wanted to develop my skills and knowledge. The brand new qualification in project controls was perfect for this, and to do it close to home with the University of Cumbria made the balance really enjoyable.”

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