IT has been just short of three years since the Final Investment Decision was agreed for Hinkley Point C.

In that time having Europe’s largest construction site on Bridgwater’s doorstep has had a massive impact on the local area.

Bridgwater has seen huge amounts of growth with new hotels, homes, roads and cycle lanes, and much, much more infrastructure on the way.

This has also led to a lot of traffic on the roads and some lengthy roadworks causing widespread disruption.

This week EDF released its report in the socio-economic benefits, highlighting the positives the company has brought to the area.

Notable figures include the fact that nearly £1 billion has been spent by EDF with companies in the South West since construction began, 6,500 new job opportunities have been created on site including 378 apprenticeships and £9.4 million given to support local projects.

The report highlights the successes of the education, skills and employment pipeline.

This includes providing an industry-leading schools engagement programme to motivate young people to study science, technology, mathematics, and engineering; the Young HPC programme of careers guidance for 16 to 21 year-olds, as well as supporting the strategy to increase productivity and social mobility, particularly in West Somerset.

“The pipeline is helping local people upskill, retrain and access high quality, sustainable careers,” said Stuart Crooks, Hinkley C managing director.

Among the successes of the employment pipeline so far are Bridgwater trio Megan Handley, Callum Matthews and Evie Walford.

Young HPC launched in 2016 to support 16 to 21 year-olds with careers advice and guidance, and now has 616 members making use of its face-to-face and digital support.

Bridgwater student Megan Handley attended the first Young HPC event in 2017, and in March 2018, started her apprenticeship as a project controls technician.

“Young HPC gave me the tools I needed to find my way into an industry that might otherwise be difficult,” Megan said.

“My apprenticeship provides an amazing way to be able to learn while networking with knowledgeable and like-minded people, something you wouldn’t always get at college.”

These apprenticeships have been at the forefront of Hinkley C. From the outset the aim was to provide 1,000 apprenticeships and to date there have been 378 apprentices working on the project in all manner of employment from construction to administration.

Callum Matthews from Bridgwater is an apprentice formwork carpenter, and former Robert Blake Science College student.

After attending an apprenticeship event he was inspired to find out what a career as an apprentice at Hinkley C could bring.

He now works for the main civils contractor BYLOR as a formwork carpenter, a vital part of the concrete pouring process.

He said: “I really wanted a change in career to something that was a bit more hands-on and this was an option that I didn’t even know was available.

“So far there have been loads of opportunities to grow as a person and learn more skills for the future.”

Meanwhile Evie Walford of Bridgwater joined the project in September 2018 as a quantity surveyor.

Her role gives her the opportunity to work in a variety of teams including the EDF Energy frameworks team in Bristol and the Balfour Beatty tunnelling team on site.

“During school and college I was uncertain about what career path I wanted to follow,” Evie said.

“I wanted the opportunity to gain further qualifications but also start working and gaining experience.

“My apprenticeship is helping me gain specialist knowledge and skills that are transferable to use on a range of projects, allowing the chance to travel and work abroad.”

The report also highlights how Hinkley C has been engaging with UK suppliers - 64 per cent of the value of HPC is committed to UK-based companies.

EDF say this helps ensure the new nuclear power station receives the best of British industry and maximises the opportunities for domestic employment and export earnings.

EDF has invested £1.5m to develop a Construction Skills and Innovation Centre in Bridgwater which has train and assessed 8,500 people to date.

The company supported the opening of the National College For Nuclear Southern Hub at Cannington, spent £3m investing in an Energy Skills Centre at Bridgwater & Taunton College and £1.6m at West Somerset College for Hinkley Ready and Enterprise projects.

It has also held numerous STEM learning days and experiences for schools in the local area, and has even provided link with Bristol University.

Minehead Middle School head of science Gavin Fry said: “Living in West Somerset means that we are rather distant from the nearest university and having EDF support our linkage with Bristol is extremely important.”

EDF also say moves to encourage women to work at Hinkley C has proved successful, as 40 per cent of HPC apprentices are female, well above the industry average.