Technical careers fair demonstrates new pathways in physics

14 November 2018

The IOP’s Technical Careers Fair, held on 9 November 2018 in the North West Regional College in Derry/Londonderry, aimed at GCSE and A-level students, has been widely welcomed for its clear advice to students – and their teachers – on the many technical career paths open to school-leavers.

Technical fair girls 2018

The genesis of the fair was the Institute’s desire to increase engagement with physics apprentices and technicians, to be more inclusive and to bridge a gap in the market for practical dialogue between potential apprentices and employers. It follows on from the IOP’s first such event in Belfast last year and another in Glasgow in September. The event was completely booked out, demonstrating the demand for such information.

In the UK there were around 509,400 apprenticeships last year but of these less than 500 were science apprenticeships. So for the college, IOP and employers, the day was about exploring whether or not there is demand for clear pathways to technical apprenticeships from school-leavers and employers alike. In front of an audience of over 100 15- to 18-year-old students, from a mixture of 8 state, grammar and independent schools, the question of two-year technical apprenticeships was examined and exemplified.

The fair was opened by Samantha Traynor, vice principal of North West Regional College followed by a number of invited speakers who had themselves progressed through practical vocational routes. Other speakers included a technical training provider and contributors from the Department of the Economy in Northern Ireland on their apprenticeship programme. Industrial exhibitors at the event included Atkins, BT and Seagate.

Abigail Munteaunu, a recent apprentice at the National Physical Laboratory, talked about why she chose the technical apprenticeship route, and about the qualification and range of skills she gained during her training and what her options are for the future. 

Ashley Churchman started his career as a technician at the UK’s Science, Technology Facilities Council gaining an engineering degree along the way before moving to CERN where he works with instrumentation across multiple systems. He talked about his training and successful career path.

Technical fair boys 2018


The day also included workshops in magnetism delivered by Seagate and IOP Ireland Teacher Network Co-ordinator, Sandra O’Connell, gave a very ‘hands-on’ on radio construction. The event finished with Sally Williams from CSR Scientific Training speaking to the group on opportunities for apprenticeship training.

The IOP’s Chief Executive Professor Paul Hardaker closed the event with a rousing call to engage with physics at all levels.

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