Name: Jim Forde
Degree & University:
BSc in Environmental Science at the University of Nottingham.
nucleargraduates, Environmental Graduate
What do you actually do?
At each placement my specific job title tends to change but it is always based on environment management and developing my skills for a future in that field. I am currently spending 6 months at Dounreay in the far north of Scotland. Dounreay was the site where a lot of the UK’s nuclear experiments took place. The site stopped operation in the mid-nineties and is now being decommissioned – when it comes to nuclear this always takes longer than you would imagine, usually decades! I spend my time at work up here doing environmental monitoring. This is looking at the water, soil, air, plants and animals around Dounreay to understand the effects of the site – and make sure there are no surprises!
Most of my work is desk based. I’d like to spend more time actually outside in the environment but the subjects I work with are usually interesting so I’m fairly content!
Did you contemplate a career in the nuclear industry before university?
Certainly not. I had considered myself “green” and therefore anti-nuclear! I never thought I’d be a shirt-and-tie bloke either, but alas! It’s definitely good to go out of your comfort zone.
What was it about the nuclear sector that attracted you then?
When the opportunity to take this job came up it looked like a good opportunity to learn more about something I didn’t really know much about – and if I still had bad thoughts about nuclear by the end of it, then it would be better the devil I know! I liked the look of the job as well because two years is not a huge commitment, it offers the opportunity to see a lot of my own country and work internationally, and if nothing else I knew the science would be interesting. Also, I’d be lying if I said the pay wasn’t attractive!
What do you most like about what you do and are there any downsides?
I like seeing parts of the UK that I wouldn’t otherwise – the nuclear industry by its nature is mostly set in extreme rural areas and this country is stunning. I am stimulated by my job. I have worked previously in jobs that are focused on something I have no interest in and it is not nice. Nuclear is such a topical subject now and I am interested by the work I do, and that goes a long way.
Unfortunately, the downside is I am a long way from friends and family and the industry can seem a bit insular. Because the idea of a graduate scheme is to create future managers, I spend most of my time in an office – like managers do! This gets a little frustrating and I sometimes crave hands-on work.
Has anything amazing happened since you’ve been on the programme?
Dounreay is based in the north coast of Scotland. Very remote. The nearest city is a two to three hour drive south and I thought I would go mad up here. In reality I wouldn’t have swapped the experience for anything. I entered the Halkirk Highland games, they’re a fairly decent-sized games. If you enter the ‘Heavy Throws’ you usually do them all throughout the day – all sorts of weight throwing and object tossing. I came in late so only did about half of them. I won £40 quid for taking 3rd place overall in the U25 category, and won the U25 hammer (I used to throw the ‘Olympic hammer’ as a junior athlete and made the GB junior team so I had a bit of previous with that one!)I didn’t toss the caber because it had rained the night before and somebody had left it in a ditch. It sucked up all the water and ended up weighing, like 80kg. Only one guy tossed that bad-boy, a real bumpy guy from the south of Scotland called Jason. When my girlfriend came to visit we camped over on the west coast which was so stunning (think middle-earth) and we had a wicked time. It turns out that I live next to one of the best surf beaches in Europe. Brilliant (and the sea food isn’t half bad either).
What advice would you give to graduates wanting to come into this sector?
To be adaptable, take things with a pinch of salt, and take as much out of every learning experience that presents itself. There are a fair few throughout the scheme – on life as well as work.
Are you planning to stay in the nuclear sector?
I am honestly not sure yet. I am interested in working in the new nuclear power station projects. But I also think it would be good to see how things are done in other sectors.
What would you say to reassure graduates about the nuclear sector?
It doesn’t bite.