A £2 billion shot-in-the-arm could be on the way for the North-East economy if Hartlepool gets a new nuclear power station.
And to prepare for the potential boost, two training academies have joined forces to ensure the town’s workforce has the skill it needs to build the plant.
A memorandum of understanding has been signed by the National Skills Academy for Nuclear and the National Skills Academy for Construction, which is part of the CITB-ConstructionSkills organisation.
Steve Housden, sector strategy manager for CITB-ConstructionSkills in the North East, said: “The new nuclear build project in Hartlepool could breathe new life into the local construction industry but, to benefit and meet the demands of the project, firms need to ensure they have the right skills.
“If the programme was to go ahead, 19 per cent of all building envelope specialists in the North-East would be projected to be working on the nuclear new build programme during 2018, which could cause shortages in other areas.”
The UK Government has identified Hartlepool, along with seven other sites in the UK, as being suitable for building the next generation of nuclear reactors.
A new Hartlepool nuclear power station would employ approximately 450 highly-skilled people over 70 years. During construction up to 3,000 staff would be needed over a five year construction period.
The station would generate enough energy to power 1.5m homes.
But the building programme would be massive, and more complicated than it would be for other industries.
“Safety considerations are far more prominent and complex than in other industries and need to be fully understood,” said Mr Housden.
He called for construction contractors to “work alongside us from the outset”.
He added: “In striving to develop and prepare the future nuclear workforce we are working to help business succeed and grow.
“We need to appreciate the current strengths and weaknesses of the skills base and promote effective training planning with employers and trade unions, ensuring that the North East supply chain is ready to play its part in the nuclear renaissance.”
Experts are predicting that North-East construction firms would get a £2 billion cash injection if the development of the proposed new nuclear plant at Hartlepool goes ahead.
A research report called Nuclear New Build Employment Scenarios, commissioned by CITB-ConstructionSkills, shows output in the region is likely to more than double between 2016 and 2017 as the project gets underway, and by 2020 it could be over three times its 2010 level.
The research also found that up to 17,000 construction workers will be required in the UK throughout the build programme while output would peak around £1.5bn a year during the project.