No-one would deny the potentially exciting times that lie ahead for the nuclear sector in Cumbria and beyond.

EDF is already building two new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point C, in Somerset, with plans for another at Sizewell C, in Suffolk, while recent editions of in-Cumbria have documented the county’s hopes for a Clean Energy Hub at Moorside, near Sellafield, complete with a new nuclear new power station, advanced modular reactors and hydrogen production.

However, all these projects are going to require skilled workers in a sector which already faces significant challenges.

For Adriènne Kelbie, who recently stepped down as chief executive of the Office for Nuclear Regulation, diversity and inclusion is essential to industry success.

"For nuclear to deliver its ambitions successfully and safely, a really diverse pipeline of highly skilled people is required,” says Adriènne, who is now working as an independent consultant and non-executive director for Westlakes Recruit - a Cumbria-based recruitment business.

For the sector to become more inclusive, Adriènne believes it needs to showcase its diversity - whether this is gender, sexual, racial, age or cognitive - where it exists already.

“There's no point in having one woman on an all-male board, if that woman never actually gets to speak, and you never see them,” she says.

“That isn't visibility. You've got to be showing your organisation’s diversity in your materials, in your social media and your face-to-face engagements because that visible role-modelling makes a difference. People cannot be a change they don’t see.

“Cumbria has a very important job of being a role model of a very diverse sector, because it has the most capacity and capability to show that off.”

Adriènne - who joined the industry from a non-technical background herself - says it is also vital to appeal to candidates beyond the nuclear sector.

"The industry needs to change the profile of the brand to be accessible, to show that you don't have to have been nuclear to be nuclear in the future and to really open up that pool to a wider audience.”

She says a more diverse pool of applicants results in teams with varied and new perspectives and, in turn, better decision-making.

“People often think of diversity in the workplace as gender, racial or sexual, but it’s equally important to consider cognitive diversity and welcome people with different ways of thinking – to bring wider experiences, viewpoints, and perspectives to the table, so that before you start trying to solve a problem you actually understand what it really is,” Adriènne says.

“The people who are your deep technical specialists are rarely the same people who are going to look across your organisation. Someone like me, who's a generalist, couldn't in a month of Sundays tie their shoelaces at what they do, but I'm very good at bringing the whole organisation together. To have truly diverse and inclusive organisations people need training, not just on the technical side, but in how to work as a team and how to have conversations that are about difference of opinion. At the moment, frankly, I think that's a gap in the sector.”

One company which aims to help the sector find diverse, talented and innovative workers is Westlakes Recruit, based in Cockermouth.

The business is run by husband and wife team Claire and Mark Wilcock and has provided thousands of people to design, build, commission and operate nuclear facilities UK-wide.

Now in its tenth year, the business has worked with big players such as Atkins, Jacobs and Westinghouse both in the UK and overseas in locations such as the United States, Abu Dhabi and South Africa.

“We deliver nuclear specific, end-to-end people solutions; powered by diversity, financial innovation and cutting-edge technology,” says Claire.

“We aim to be smarter, faster and more agile in what we do by practising our guiding principles, to lead with value, compete with courage and integrity and to simplify everything for our candidates and employers.”

Mark says despite an increased focus by employers on engaging with young people from school age, there is still often a shortage of trades workers.

"As a company we recruit for all roles in the nuclear sector, our model very deliberately takes an approach that is inclusive to all skills,” he says.

“We believe this is the most sustainable approach we can take for the sector and for the candidates and customers we work with. It is vitally important that we are able to source skilled tradespeople as well as white collar workers.”

He says there is often a perception that people are unable to make the move into nuclear from other sectors.

"There are many workers who are absolutely capable of moving into the nuclear space, but they don't always see it,” he says.

“Part of our challenge across the UK is to entice those transferable skills and introduce them as new entrants to nuclear."

Westlakes itself has recently undergone a rebrand and fresh website development as it continues to grow nationally and globally.

“What we're really trying to focus on is the evolution and development of a more diverse nuclear future,” says Claire.

"We're doing our best to highlight to school leavers, graduates, those in early stages of their careers and people from other industries that nuclear is an exciting and rewarding career path. It’s an absolutely great sector to work in.

"We're developing our business so that we are advocates for the nuclear sector, portraying it in a way that is approachable, so people feel like they can apply to work in the sector and they recognise you don't have to be in nuclear already.

“For example, if you're an accountant, you may be able to move into being a cost engineer in nuclear, but many people wouldn't know that.

"Some of the work that we're doing with the rebrand also includes how to educate our clients about how you advertise roles to attract a more diverse talent pool, making your website and functionality more user focused and friendly. This can be done through using translation tools, screen readers and visibility functions, so there isn't a barrier to applying for and working for our nuclear clients.”