How Becoming A Project Planner In The UK Nuclear Industry Could Set You Up For Life

Updated: Apr 14

If you are familiar with or if not, but you have been searching for work in the nuclear industry for some time, you will have seen numerous job ads looking for the role of “Project Planner”. These opportunities are often skipped over due to the assumption that they are “not for me”.

This assumption could often be misplaced. A Project Planner role is one of the most accessible jobs for utilising your existing transferable skills, providing individuals possess the right aptitude, education, behaviours and experience.

What is a project planner?

We at Get Into Nuclear are not about reinventing the wheel. To answer this, we have consulted a Principal Planner role advertised by Programme Management and Controls Consultants, The Herne Group.

“Robust planning is an integral part of project management, organising, monitoring and steering the project at all times. The Principal Planner sets out, monitors, maintain, and updates the project schedule to coordinate with all project stakeholders. The Planner provides information to the Project Management teams on progress, including critical path and project milestones. The Planner works closely with the Project Services / Programme Management Office (PMO) team in monitoring programme KPI’s, e.g. Earned Value...”

The above may sound like complete gibberish, leading to not applying for the role. However, this is not the case; there is a career path to be followed to put yourself in a position to land one of these roles – and nothing in the above talks explicitly of nuclear industry experience.

Stephen Daly, Managing Director of The Herne Group with a demonstrable track record in Nuclear and Major Project delivery, had this to say;

“In my view planning, as a profession, can be broken down into segments – 70% aptitude, 20% software knowledge and experience, and 10% industry context. If you can demonstrate your ability for the 90% why avoid an opportunity based on the 10%? That’s not to say you can pitch yourself as a leader in the field at first outing, however with the right aptitude, behaviours and experience in the software you could certainly add value to project delivery organisations and gather the sector experience you need.”

How to become a project planner?

There are many common prerequisites with any job advertisement for a Project Planner in the nuclear industry. A higher level of education (e.g. HND, Bachelor’s degree or above) with previous nuclear experience usually highlighted as preferable - however, they are not a barrier to entry if you can demonstrate the following requirement.

Relevant qualifications and experience in using specific planning software are commonly essential. These are usually Oracle Primavera P6 and Microsoft Project, widely known and widely used in many industries. If you do not have these under your belt, you will struggle to land a Project Planning role at a professional level in any industry, not just nuclear.

If you have these but don’t know where to start, do not fear! There is much help at hand.

How to demonstrate SQEP for a Project Planning role?

SQEP (Suitably Qualified and Experienced Person) is often used in the UK's nuclear industry and on the website. So how will you demonstrate that you‘re SQEP for a Project Planning role in the UK Nuclear Industry? We asked Stephen Daly;

“Planning of Projects and Programmes is not unique to the UK Nuclear industry, all large Engineering and Construction industry sectors utilise Programme Management and Controls, of which Planning is a part, to help them deliver. If you have experience of this work from sectors outside of Nuclear you will already possess a level of qualification and experience - it then becomes about those things being ‘suitable’ when put into the context of the Nuclear industry.
Again, this is not as unique as perhaps a lot of people in the industry may indicate. Oil and gas, Petro-chem, Pharmaceutical are all heavily regulated and safety conscious industries, that will give candidates real, transferable experience. And for me the part that’s overlooked by a lot of Nuclear organisations when looking at these candidates is what they bring that Nuclear doesn’t have in abundance – commercial/economic awareness and the drive to be first to market. The UK Nuclear Industry gets some bad press at times, particularly in terms of delivery performance, and people with a demonstrable background delivering in markets where launching a product or mobilising some infrastructure carry heavy commercial/economic risk, can bring benefit.”

Deciding to become a Project Planner in the UK Nuclear Industry not only is achievable but will also provide you with a set of skills to provide you with a career for life.

As long as there is a need for Projects, there will be a need to plan, monitor and manage them.

What about the next steps?

There are many ways to decide to go about finding your way into the nuclear industry.

Check out the pages on the website for links to the many resources available for you to do so.

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If you are looking for specific help regards a role in Project Management and Controls, it will be best to contact The Herne Group. They offer bespoke recruitment for high-calibre Programme Management and Controls candidates, subject matter, expert, consulting and training services to major nuclear and non-nuclear organisations. Find their website at -