At the relatively young age of 40, Paul Winkle has achieved one of the prime management jobs in the industry.
What does a nuclear power station plant manager do?
As a nuclear power station plant manager, Winkle looks after the day-to-day running, operations and maintenance of one of the UK's nuclear power stations responsible for generating power for millions of homes across the country.
How did Winkle become the manager of a nuclear power plant?
Winkle started out as a graduate mechanical engineer. He began his career in the turbine manufacturing industry working for GEC in Rugby and Parsons in Newcastle, who were major suppliers to the nuclear industry.
After working as a project manager on the upgrade of another nuclear power station, in 1996 he went to work for Scottish Nuclear as a specialist in technical support in the engineering division. This job entailed trouble shooting, safety cases and technical support for particular areas of the power plant and he worked in this role for six years. During this time he progressed onto project management work in boilers, coordinating teams of engineers and technicians to carry out repairs during maintenance shutdowns.
In 2002 he moved to Torness power station to work as a maintenance manager, coordinating a team of 110 engineers and technicians at the plant to carry out day-to-day maintenance (troubleshooting and repair, but also a lot of testing).
In his current role as plant manager (started in 2006 following a seven-month stint as acting plant manager at Hunterston) he can make use of all of his management experience to guide his team of engineers through their problems to keep the plant running.
Is being a nuclear power plant manager enjoyable?
Winkle believes that there is the potential for numerous future jobs in the nuclear power industry, both in the existing plants and also proposed new ones.
He feels very positive about the industry, saying: "there is a great deal of potential in the industry and the jobs are there to be done. The nuclear industry is safe because of the commitment of the people who work in it, and nuclear power plants are safe places to work because we have to be 100% committed to industrial safety."
As plant manager, Winkle gets satisfaction from seeing people do a good job and deliver improvements.
What's his advice for power industry job seekers?
His advice to any potential apprentice or graduate looking to embark upon a career in the power / nuclear industry is to concentrate on doing the job in hand and do it well before advancing to the next level. It is important to get a firm grounding in the technology you are working with and not to try and move on too quickly.
Another good piece of advice is to never be afraid to speak up with good ideas – treat senior management as approachable because that is what they expect. British Energy has a range of specialist graduate and apprentice training programmes and requires a range of people to be recruited to fill many roles in the plant every year. Each of these roles is just as important as the next in the 'well oiled machine', which is the nuclear plant.