Caithness scoops national industry skills awards

Caithness scoops national industry skills awards

To view video footage of interviews with the winners of the awards click on the following link:


The nuclear industry in Caithness swept the boards at the world-class nuclear skills awards ceremony held in Manchester last night.

The National Skills Academy for Nuclear and Cogent Sector Skills Council held their first collaborative skills awards ceremony for the industry. A significant event for both nuclear employers and stakeholders, representatives from a wide-range of high profile organisations were in attendance.

The evening offered a unique opportunity for key figures in the nuclear industry to join together to celebrate success in workforce development through a number of key awards.

Having fought off fierce competition from many commendable candidates from a range of nuclear organisations, a trio of well-deserved winners from Caithness were presented with their awards.

Local MP John Thurso praised the achievement. “These awards not only recognise the achievements of three talented and skilled individuals but also showcase the natural abilities and quality of skills training available in Caithness," he said. "They are an outstanding advertisement for inward investment.”

Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd training manager Jillian Bundy received the Outstanding Leadership in Skills award.

The training and development department recently moved into Thurso to become DSRL’s first potential spin-off business, requiring leadership and motivation. This award recognises an individual who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to ensuring that the nuclear sector has the skills it needs to continue to be a world-class industry.

The judges were looking for someone who had led a skills project beyond their job description; who had driven forward innovation; who had contributed to the wider community and who had led a nationally driven initiative.

Jillian, who lives in Reay with her husband and daughter, explained: “I see this award as a reflection of the whole team’s skills and dedication, especially during and after our move offsite, and our subsequent branding as Training at Naver. Since our move offsite, we have been successful in attracting new business from companies in the local community, and a number of our staff have recently received awards for working with young people in our schools delivering a personal development programme for teenagers.”

Another Dounreay winner was 20-year-old Michael Miller, a fourth year DSRL apprentice who was awarded the National Skills Academy’s Foundation Degree HND/HNC Student of the Year.

Keen on graphics and drawing right through his studies in Wick High School, Michael came to Dounreay in 2005 as a mechanical design apprentice. Whilst gaining his HNC and HND in Thurso College, Michael decided to follow in the footsteps of his father, who served his time as a fitter during Dounreay’s operational era.

Starting off his apprenticeship Michael’s first posting was the workshops within the fuel cycle area where he worked on the tools.

Michael has been working in the DSRL design office for the last couple of years, where he hopes to remain after passing his final board which is looming in a couple of week’s time.

Working alongside colleagues with diverse engineering backgrounds, he has gained a wealth of experience and has had the opportunity to help design a new environmental monitoring system for the Dounreay cementation plant.

Talking of his achievement Michael said: “I’m delighted to be given this award and feel very proud that my hard work and commitment to the industry has been recognised in this way. Dounreay has given me the opportunity to pursue my goals and obtain invaluable experience along the way. I’m now aiming at finishing my degree and working towards an honours degree and feel very privileged to be in a position to do this and enjoy the work I’m doing at the same time.”

A keen footballer and Glasgow Rangers season ticket holder, Michael lives in Wick with his family.

Twenty-year-old Mathew Mackay from Watten picked up the Scottish Apprentice of the Year. Mathew joined the Vulcan Rolls-Royce modern apprenticeship as an instrumentation apprentice in 2004 from Wick High School.

Although he achieved excellent grades at school which would have allowed him to progress to an engineering course at university, he decided he wanted to gain a sound practical foundation to begin his engineering career. Vulcan’s modern apprenticeship programme provided the opportunity he sought and Mathew set about gaining experience and knowledge at a very fast pace.

In year one he gained his National Certificate and Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) level 2 in Engineering. In years two and three he gained his HND and SVQ 3 in Engineering, effectively completing his modern apprenticeship in just over three years.

With his outstanding results Mathew took the option to undertake a further eight weeks study on the engineer’s Nuclear Technical Personnel Course at HMS Sultan in Gosport. At the age of 19, in 2007 he returned as the youngest ever Rolls-Royce employee and took up the position of instrument technician. He went on to pass his instrument technician board which provides evidence of his competence and he is now undertaking degree studies at North Highland College.

Talking about his award Mathew said: “The modern apprenticeship programme provided the framework for me to develop my practical and interpersonal skills in a structured manner to achieve a set goal and my motivation and the flexibility of the programme allowed me to progress at my chosen accelerated pace.”

Mathew’s performance is such that Rolls-Royce frequently uses him as an ambassador at events to show apprentices of the future what they can achieve.

The keynote speaker at the ceremony last night was Lord Young, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Skills and Apprenticeships. The evening culminated with an after-dinner speech by Steve Williams MBE, British rower and double Olympic champion.

Commenting on the achievements of the winners from Caithness, Ken Nicol, the National Skills Academy’s regional manager for Scotland, said: “This is the first time this awards ceremony has been held for the nuclear industry and this is a fantastic achievement for Jillian, Mathew and Michael, their families and for Caithness. This clearly demonstrates the quality of individuals Caithness has working in the nuclear industry.”