Explore: Science

Nuclear Chemistry Technician
National Nuclear Laboritories

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Luke S

My name is Luke S and I’m a technician at the national Nuclear Laboratory in Preston. It’s working with radioactive samples. What that is is we do analysis, basic analysis, chemistry jobs on samples that we receive from different sites that are in decommissioning process and from other companies around the country and hopefully trying to go into the worldwide market as well.


My father works for the company he deals with Uranium in big drums and things like that, he’s done that for thirty years and obviously I looked at my dad and thought well he’s had a brilliant career and he’s always done alright and he believed there were some apprenticeships opening up so I applied having no previous back ground in chemistry apart from my GCSEs at school. When I started the apprenticeship I think I was about 23 so I mean I was quite old to apply for an apprenticeship as a lot of people apply to do them straight after school. I applied, was successful and went on to do a course at Preston College which was a BTEC in Chemistry. To be honest with you when I finished school I didn’t want anything more to do with learning and that is why I went in the army. My school was a good school my teachers were all great, it was just I think I was a bit of an arse really I messed up big time, if I could go back and speak to myself what I would say was just knuckle down and just deal with it. I learnt alot of stuff in the army with regards to discipline and how to behave in the normal world because obviously at school you don’t learn about that. Then I left there and worked in the civil service and went and did an IT course at Blackpool College. I did that for two years and then became an estate agent for three years and then that’s when I landed with this job really.


At first I didn’t actually get it because there were people that were younger than me that had A-Levels in Chemistry that did get it then they picked me based upon my age and my maturity. Alot of people what they seem to think is that you’re the “brew maker” that you just makes cups of tea and coffee for the people that know what they’re doing, but that wasn’t the case, we were just chucked in at the deep end and we were doing the same jobs as what everyone else was doing. Then when new people came into the company or in to my team because we were split up, I trained them and they had the degrees, they had all the knowledge already, but because they didn’t know exactly what they were doing within the role I had to train them. So when I started me and another apprentice use to go to college twice a week and all the other students wanted to know what we did because we were different to them because they went to college 4 or 5 days a week whereas for went for half days on two days. To be honest with you it felt like we were professionals in what we do and it was quite exciting.


As lucky as I am I wish I could have started my apprenticeship when I was younger, obviously now the age I am, the experience Id have been amazing.  You walk into this organisation full of doctors and chemists and all these people that know everything and they just bombard you with information, especially with nuclear. It’s quite scary at first, obviously saying that you could get contaminated and all this kind of stuff, but then that becomes interesting because it’s something you don’t know about.


I’ve decided just to hold back for the year but I do feel that there is need for a degree. The other thing is, if a company is offering to pay for it for you then you do it. I’ve now got nearly three years experience in the lab, I’ve got my chemistry from my BTEC and if I go for a degree or HNC or any other sort of course that I feel would be beneficial to me, they’ll put me on it, I’ll have no debt  and I’ll have that experience to then go elsewhere.


When I was at school what got pushed into me was you go to college or you go to sixth form you do A-Levels or BTECs and that’s it really, they don’t tell you that you can go on to apprenticeships. I have no regrets, there’s different ways that you can go about it. A lot of people didn’t think I’d amount to anything, I’ve done really well, I’m in the process at the moment of just applying for a mortgage. Me and my fiancé we have our flat together, she’s got a job, I’ve got a job and we comfortably pay the bills. We manage to do all that we want to do as well. I think what I’ve done, I’ve got myself to a point now where I’m really happy and I’m really pleased with the way things have worked out, but I probably could have got here a lot sooner,.

Luke joined the army straight after school but left after a short time. He then spent time working as an estate agent and taking an IT course at college. Influenced by his father, a process worker for National Nuclear Laboratories, at 23 he applied for an apprenticeship in Nuclear Chemistry. He now feels it was the best thing he could have done and has enjoyed the combination of learning and earning.

More information about Science, engineering and production technicians n.e.c.

average salary

The UK average salary is £29,813

average weekly hours

There are 37.5 hours in the average working week

84%  male 
16%  female 

The UK workforce is 47% female and 53% male

Future employment

Future employment?

? Job holders in this unit group perform a variety of technical support functions not elsewhere classified in MINOR GROUP 311: Science, Engineering and Production Technicians.
Entry varies from employer to employer. Entrants usually possess GCSEs/S grades, a BTEC/SQA award or an Intermediate GNVQ/GSVQ Level II. Professional qualifications are available and may be required in some areas of work.
  • Sets up apparatus for experimental, demonstration or other purposes;
  • Undertakes tests and takes measurements and readings;
  • Performs calculations and records and interprets data;
  • Otherwise assists technologists as directed.
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