Name: Michael Kelk | Age: 23
Degree & University:
English Literature, Exeter
Communications & Marketing
What do you actually do?
I have been on the scheme for a year and my first placement was in Cumbria, working at Herdus House, which is the headquarters for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. We started off with three weeks of team building exercises including kayaking and trekking along with an introduction to the industry. I then started working in the Communications Directorate with a communications officer, who was responsible for communicating the skills for the North West Division, including decommissioning work for places like Sellafield and all the big challenges that involves. My job was to support him and to help with the marketing of the graduate scheme. Then I worked at Slimbridge near Bristol for three weeks to learn presentation skills. I am currently on my second secondment for the Nuclear Industry Association based just by Buckingham Palace and I’m working in communications again and as a lobbyist, getting government and the industry ready for the nuclear new build and giving briefings to reporters on what is happening in the nuclear sector. It’s mind boggling how different my roles have been so far.
What do you most like about what you do?
I get bored quite quickly but now I’ve done the time in Cumbria and I’m doing the time in London and I’m finally finding out what career I want to go into. When I was applying for marketing jobs I don’t think I had a real idea of what the job entailed. The thing with the nuclear sector is it is so big and there is so much you can do and I’m getting to do lots of little bits of it — marketing, PR, lobbying and the more political side – so I have a really good idea of what I want to do now. I also love the fact there are so many really big challenges attached to the job. I like the variety; in May I had a meeting in the Houses of Parliament, I’d never been to London before so to get inside such a landmark for work and that was thrilling. I was a little bit late because I was taking photos outside. I don’t know many other graduates who have had that opportunity. I enjoy the Footprints element because once a week I can have some fun while giving something back. I’m working with Camden Council with their Parents Council. It’s open to any parent who has children aged under 16 or 19 if they are disabled. I’m helping them set up a community event and to launch their new website. It’s difficult as it is such a diverse community and many don’t speak English as a first language. That means I have to find innovative ways of publishing the event, like using human billboards rather than adverts or making giant maps with symbols rather than words.
The only downside is because we are on secondments we move around every six months so just when you are getting settled you have to move on again.
What do you think people think of the sector?
I think the perception of nuclear in the UK has definitely changed. In the last five years a lot of people have become converts to nuclear. Even environmentalist Mark Linus has come out and said in the light of global warming it is the only way forward, and Greenpeace aren’t against nuclear power. One thing that has become clear is that we have to be open with the public and when I was applying for jobs that challenge of changing the perception of the industry as far as the public is concerned, became very clear to me.
Why did you decide on this sector?
When I graduated I went on a ski season to France and I got really itchy feet and quite scared because I was basically working as a pot washer but I had a degree so what was I doing there? I started seeing jobs advertised on the internet for nuclear graduates and it looked more fun and more fulfilling than other schemes available. Truth is, the scheme offered something a little more than the others I had applied to. One of its best selling points was that it gives you a chance to travel both around the UK and abroad, so that’s why I applied for it. It looked like it offered lots of opportunities and challenges. Nuclear is a good and honest employer with a lot of exciting opportunities plus I get enough holiday to manage a ski trip each year – in fact I’m planning on going with some of the other nucleargraduates in January!
What has your biggest challenge been so far?
Learning to think like an engineer. As an English Language student I’m used to reading books and writing about what I have read, But because the industry is so project managed you have to follow due process and getting used to that has been difficult. There is so much jargon and anagrams as well and you have to learn them all.
What skills do you need to make a success of what you do?
You need to be dedicated; sometimes this is more than just a job. You have to be passionate about it. You need to be innovative and dedicated because the sector is so complicated you have to absorb a lot of information. Seven months ago I was dealing with decommissioning work and now I’m planning process.
What advice would you give other graduates wanting to come into the sector?
Just make sure you keep up-to-date with what is going on. Although it is not in the headlines al the time it is in the news a lot. This has been one of the most intensive years for the nuclear industry because so much has happened.
How do you see your career progressing in the foreseeable future?
At the moment there isn’t a job at the end of this scheme but there is so much opportunity out there. I’m planning my next secondment at the moment and I have a list of 50 companies which I could go to and hopefully, those opportunities will still be there when my time on the scheme ends.