Sizewell C HR director Sarah Hancock on how you build a team to build a power station.

A project of national significance is taking shape on the Suffolk coast. Once Sizewell C, the new nuclear power station near Leiston, is completed in the mid-2030s, it will be capable of powering six million homes with low-carbon energy for 60 years.

But to build a power station, you have to build the team who can do the job. That’s where Sarah Hancock, Sizewell C’s HR director, comes in. 

Sarah heads up the HR team responsible for delivering what she describes as once-in-alifetime opportunity for the East of England.

East Anglian Daily Times: There are already 500 workers on site at Sizewell CThere are already 500 workers on site at Sizewell C (Image: Sizewell C)

At peak construction, Sizewell C will employ around 8,000 people, with a third of those expected to come from the local area. There’ll be a vast range of job opportunities on offer, alongside 1,500 apprenticeships, unique training initiatives and work experience placements.

“It’s difficult to overstate the impact that these opportunities will have for the local area,” said Sarah. “It’s the difference between a generation wanting to leave the area to find opportunities, and a generation finding the opportunities it wants right on its doorstep.”

READ MORE: Sizewell C Community Fund invests £23m in East Suffolk

Sarah started out her career in law and practiced employment law for two firms until 2012, when she joined EDF. There, she worked in a variety of roles, including HR director, when she had the challenge of moving 3,000 workers to working from home for the first time as part of the COVID response.

In 2021, Sarah joined Sizewell C, attracted by a project set to play a big part in Britain’s low-carbon energy future, and which will have a significant positive impact on the area in which she grew up.

“I’m a local,” she said, “I grew up in Uggeshall, near Southwold, and I still live in the area – and that personal connection definitely deepens my commitment to ensuring local people really feel the benefit of Sizewell C.”

East Anglian Daily Times: Sizewell C formally entered the construction phase in January 2024Sizewell C formally entered the construction phase in January 2024 (Image: Sizewell C)

After formally entering the construction phase in January and picking up its nuclear licence in May, Sizewell C is starting to move at pace – and that means Sarah and her team have to act quickly to ensure the project has the people it needs when it needs them.

“There are around 500 workers on site now. By the end of the year, it will be three times that. We’ve got a big responsibility to get that recruitment right.

“As you’d expect, the nuclear industry has incredibly high standards, so we have to ensure we get the best people for the job. We also want to ensure that the thousands of opportunities here are as accessible as possible for people in this region. We want to leave a legacy for Suffolk.”

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Partnerships with organisations such as Women into Construction have seen Sizewell C take extra steps to offer opportunities to women in East Suffolk, and it’s working with partners across the region to ensure opportunities are open to those who might otherwise find them hard to access.

“We’re doing things differently,” said Sarah. “Our leadership team is over 50% female and our directly-employed team is 40% female. We want to challenge what a construction workforce looks like too, and I know we can look to the skills we have right here in Suffolk to do that.”

Aside from her role at Sizewell C, Sarah has a part time role as a governor of Suffolk New College, making her well placed to lead the charge in collaborating with local schools, colleges and universities, to upskill the next generation of nuclear experts.

The project has introduced its first work experience placements, opened apprenticeship schemes and appointed the next cohort of graduates ready to join in September.

By developing programmes to help train up the future nuclear workforce, Sizewell C offers an opportunity to learn on the job.

Sarah and her team are also investing in cross-industry training for people moving into the nuclear sector, allowing them to leverage their existing experience while acquiring specialised nuclear knowledge.

“Sizewell C is a British project and it’s going to play a big part in developing the skilled workforce necessary to build the nuclear industry in Britain,” said Sarah. “But it’s also a Suffolk project, and it’s personally rewarding to know that the project is building high-quality careers for people in an area I love, and where career options have been previously limited.

“Yes, it’s a big responsibility, but we’ve an amazing team at Sizewell C already – and it’s going to be fun bringing this vision to life.”

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This article is part of the EADT's Clean & Green campaign, which aims to promote our region as the biggest in the UK and Europe for all forms of renewable energy.