Nurturing future engineering talent at LEL Nuclear

A growing West Cumbrian engineering firm is planning to take on more apprentices after swelling its ranks with two new young faces this year. 

LEL Nuclear Engineering, in Lillyhall, currently has 15 staff of whom three are apprentices. 

The mechanical and engineering company offers a range of services from lifting operations to mechanical installations, strip out and commissioning support. 

Operations manager Simon Matthews says the company – which has nearly doubled its number of staff since March – wants apprenticeships to play a big role in its growth plans for the future. 

“The amount of work we’re doing has grown hugely in the last year,” said Simon. 

“We’re carrying out significant amounts of work at Sellafield, as well as other locations in the county including BAE Systems, in Barrow. We fully expect this growth to continue in the coming years and we see apprentices as one of the best ways to attract and retain a skilled and dedicated workforce.”

Its three current apprentices are all studying at Gen2; business administration apprentice Meara Burns and Andrew Bulman and Jacob Johnson, who are both mechanical fitters. All three are taking part in level three apprenticeships.

“There’s a lot of people retiring in years to come, and these apprentices are our future,” Simon said. 

“Especially after Covid it’s really important to give young people opportunities, it’s good for them and it’s good for the community as well.

“They are working with mentors every day, who show them what to do so they can crack on and get the job done. They’re all doing a brilliant job and showing that they’ve got a really bright future. After they finish the qualification there are other courses that they can do and hopefully they’ll progress within the company.”

Andrew, who plays as a winger for Whitehaven RLFC when he is not working at LEL Nuclear, says his role there fulfils a long-held ambition to work in engineering. 

“My dad was an electrical instruments engineer and I’ve always been interested in it growing up,” said Andrew, 22, from Moor Row, who started his 42-month apprenticeship in September.

“Before I started this I was working in the building trade, but this is really the kind of thing I’ve always wanted to do, I’m enjoying every minute of it so far.

“You end up with a trade and, especially when you’re studying a level three apprenticeship like I am, you have opportunities to go into different areas. You can go onto be a foreman or something like that and it just gives you lots of options.

“I am getting loads of hands-on experience, LEL Nuclear treat us really well and that’s the foundation you’ve got to have. If you treat people well then they’ll do a good job because they enjoy being here.”

Meara, 17, from Workington, says her time with the company so far has involved work on its record keeping systems and developing ways of collating data accurately and digitally. 

“It is nice to work for a small, local company where everyone’s so friendly,” said Meara, who is doing an 18-month apprenticeship with the company. 

“People are really making an effort to help me grow and develop. You gain really valuable skills and you go straight into a full-time job. You get a lot more from it than just going to college or sixth form where you don’t get the experience you just get knowledge.”