New centre ensures welding excellence

Welding is vital to meeting the needs of Hinkley Point C and other nuclear new build projects like it, and it’s crucial to the long-term success of the UK’s engineering sector.

However, it’s a skill that’s in decline. That’s why the project has worked with local partners to fund and create a new Welding Centre of Excellence at Bridgwater & Taunton College.

The centre is one of a trio – which includes the Electrical Centre of Excellence and the Mechanical Centre of Excellence – opening in Bridgwater this year to support the project. Hinkley Point C has committed £6 million to support these three facilities.

Opened last autumn, the Welding Centre of Excellence doesn’t just train the welders of the future, creating even more opportunities for local people in the process. It also conducts competency assessments. This makes sure that the work completed is right first time, and gives the project somewhere to create mock-ups and conduct test welds too.

Critical work

Jamie White, Nuclear Skills Alliance Construction Skills Capability Lead, said: “Welding is critical to the integrity of the infrastructure surrounding the guts of a nuclear reactor. We need to get it right and maintain that quality for the 60 years of the power station’s life.

“During construction, a sizeable welding workforce will come through the site. The consequences of having to rework welds can be significant in terms of both the cost of the reworks but also in delays to construction. This is why having dedicated training facilities is so important.”

Jamie added: “Hinkley Point C’s investment in these facilities will open up fresh opportunities for local people to work on the project and leave a lasting legacy for the region.”

Seal of approval for new centre

Bylor Fabricator Ross Pollard was among the first people to put the Welding Centre of Excellence through its paces.

Ross, who is from Taunton and has worked at Hinkley Point C for more than two years, used the centre earlier this year to take his Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) welder competence test.

He said: “The centre has great equipment and the tutor was very helpful and knowledgeable.
Being able to train to a certified standard at a local centre is a real bonus. It means that local people can gain qualifications without having to factor in additional travel.

“Certification will open up the opportunity for more people to apply for a wider range of roles at Hinkley Point C and help them to transfer their skills to other sites and projects should they wish to.

“What's great about working at Hinkley Point C is the variety of work. I get to work on large-scale, interesting fabrication projects I wouldn’t see if I worked for a smaller firm. Working here has also allowed me to complete lots of training which is relevant to my current position and will add to my portfolio.”

Did you know?

Around 90 welding vacancies are advertised in the region every month on average.

Our education lead explores the benefits of apprenticeships