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Joseph: Insights into nucleargraduates

Book open Reading time: 7 mins

We catch up with Joseph, who joined nucleargraduates after he graduated from the University of Liverpool with a Masters in Astrophysics. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background

I’m born and bred in Liverpool, and class of 2016 at University of Liverpool, graduating with a Masters in Astrophysics. I’m an avid football fan, a big music lover, and I adore travelling.

After my graduation, I worked at a summer camp in the USA for 2 consecutive summers, before starting at nucleargraduates.

What is your role and how long have you been at nucleargraduates?

Currently my role is a Waste Engineer at a nuclear site, and I am split between 2 teams.

One half of my job is as a part of the Ponds Programme. I am in charge of creating and helping carry out 2 characterisation projects on the site. The first is to characterise the radioactive materials in the Pond so it can be decommissioned. I am planning out the scheme of concrete coring, which involves research into the different analysis types, so I know what data I want to get out of it in order to decide on whether it is justifiable. The second bit of characterisation I am involved in is to characterise the waste in all of the sludge/resin tanks from the PWFP (pond water filtration plant) so we know what is in there, whether it is homogeneous, what waste stream it goes in etc, which will aid the decommissioning of the tanks and eventually the PWFP itself.

I am also accountable for helping plan out and execute a project to send a large amount of nuclear waste to a disposal site. This includes writing all related documents for the project, planning out how it will be done, when, by whom, etc.

This is my current role, but I have previously worked as an Assistant Project Manager at Atkins, a Policy Advisor in the nuclear sector in Westminster, and as Environment, Safety and Security Analyst at a nuclear site. I have been involved in all of those roles since I started the scheme in October 2017.

What first inspired you to apply for a role with nucleargraduates?

I applied for the nucleargraduates scheme because I wanted something different – a unique, tailored experience to suit my learning and development objectives. I have always been interested in nuclear physics (it is a big part of astrophysics), and I knew I wanted a job where I could have a lot of variety and influence on my work. The nucleargraduates scheme fits all of those criteria, and more!

The job is only a partial reason for applying, there is also a large amount of training and opportunities that you receive through the scheme that are not possible in any other scheme (to my knowledge, of course).

Tell us the top three skills you have learnt during your time at nucleargraduates and why you need them in your role.

A big part of my experience on the nucleargraduates scheme has revolved around building up self-confidence – it is all well and good when you’re surrounded by the metaphorical blanket of the university experience, but having a job is a different ball game. You need to be accountable for work, and I have been able to develop the confidence to show that I am accountable to take on and produce complex outputs.

I have also been able to develop my leadership skills – a large part of the scheme revolves around being in a team, and this requires being able to motivate and to lead others to reach difficult and adverse objectives.

I have also been able to develop my resilience. This job requires a lot of moving around, meeting new people, and throwing yourself into unusual and different situations. I have been able to develop a resilience that has helped me achieve what I want, which will help in the future.

What kind of training have you received? How has this helped your professional development? (Think about training, support, coaching and the experts you work with internally and at clients)

During my time on the nucleargraduates scheme, I have been exposed to an extraordinary amount of training and development opportunities, which have allowed me to try new things and learn new skills. We have had many courses which allow us to develop our leadership, organisational and teamwork skills as a base, whilst also learning new things such as project management and nuclear safety to name a couple.

Underlying the entire scheme is the SME project, which involves our teams thinking of a business idea, writing a business plan, pitching for money (a la Dragon’s Den), sourcing, and selling our product all to raise money for our chosen charity. This has exposed me to a variety of different situations I never thought I would see on a science based graduate scheme.

We are also being helped along the way to being chartered with applicable societies/Institutes (in my case the Institute of Physics). We have access to mentors who have completed the process, and who are available to give guidance, professional support and advice.

We have the opportunity to become STEM ambassadors, which gives a fantastic opportunity to try and inspire young people about the benefits of a job in science, and is a great opportunity to work with kids and to have fun in the process!

Finally, nucleargraduates give us a generous Continuous Professional Development (CPD) budget, which we are able to spend on additional courses, conferences and materials to give us the choice to get extra professional and personal development. For example, I have been lucky enough to go to conferences in Germany and Belgium, tours around nuclear plants in Spain, and have had the opportunity to become a qualified Mental Health First Aider.

The highlight of the scheme for me was the International Footprints Programme. It is an aspect of the scheme that gives the graduates the opportunity to plan a visit to another country in order to experience the culture and to gain knowledge about their nuclear sector. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to be the Chair of the Planning Committee, and we planned a trip to Ukraine in March 2019. We were lucky enough during that time to visit Chernobyl and have a tour of the exclusion zone (which is where the photograph was taken!).

All of these experiences and opportunities help us develop personally and professionally, can change your outlook on life in general.

What excites you about the work you are doing? (Is it the scale of activities you carry out, the global nature of the company, the impact you make on your team etc?)

I enjoy the work I am doing because I feel like I am making a I also enjoy the variety of work that I have at my disposal, I am involved in technical work, but also have been involved in the composition of high level government policy too. I enjoy feeling like part of the team, and it has been good to be accepted and involved in work with everyone else.

What do you find most interesting with the sector/industry you're in?

It is nice to know I work in an industry that is completing tasks that have never been done before in the world. It is interesting to work in a field responsible for the safety of the country. The nuclear industry is fascinating to work in, and I am very glad that I am part of it.

What is the company culture like?

To be part of the nucleargraduates scheme is to be part of a close knit group of like-minded individuals. As part of the scheme, we are on different secondments, and therefore meet up fairly sporadically, but when we do it is incredibly good to see everyone. I have made some lifelong friends, and I am really happy with the culture. The programme team are also incredibly approachable, caring and committed to helping us out and making us comfortable. I have felt supported by them as soon as I started, and I feel very grateful for all of the help that they have given me to progress me to where I am now.

How has this role and the experiences you've gained set you up for future career progression and success?

nucleargraduates has given me an incredibly varied and extensive list of experiences and opportunities that I never would have been able to achieve in any other graduate job. It is truly a unique graduate scheme, and using it as a foundation, I feel prepared to enter a fruitful career in an area that fascinates me.

Has anything surprised you since you started at nucleargraduates?

I have surprised myself, in a way, by how much I can handle. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t tough at times. I have shown strength and resilience I never thought I had, which has given me the confidence to achieve what I want to in my future.

Finally, any tips for members wanting to apply to nucleargraduates?

Be yourself, it doesn’t necessarily matter if you’re not an expert in the field. Just show the drive and enthusiasm to improve yourself and you will go very far.

Apply, you won’t regret it.

To find out more about nucleargraduates and their opportunities, click here