Making a career change through the Graduate Academy: My Experience

By Julian EvansJulian Evans

After graduating with a Physics degree from the University of Birmingham in 2011, I went abroad for two years to study an Erasmus Mundus Masters’ course in Materials Science, a chance to experience life in four countries and meet people from many more, learning to speak various languages in the process. Although these courses were both very interesting, I became disillusioned with academic research and so in August 2013 I landed back in Wales with an almighty crash, totally confused about what to do next.

Several months later of applying for jobs in other industries, such as IT, finance, retail and even cold-calling and getting virtually nowhere, I started to believe that at nearly 25 and with little work experience, I’d left it too late for any non-academic career. I heard about the Graduate Academy in an email from GO Wales, read some of the case studies and thought “These people were in the same boat as me, really enjoyed themselves and have clearly managed to get something from this course, so why shouldn’t I take part?”. I threw everything I had at both the application form and the subsequent interview, and was delighted when I was offered a place.

Lampeter may be small, but honestly, that’s all we needed. GO Wales have done a really good job to craft a course which is not only both practical and enjoyable but which also helps the group to bond very effectively. It was very interesting to find out everyone else’s backgrounds and ambitions, comparing the experience with my own and sharing advice. As most of my projects at university were done alone, the continual focus on teamwork at the Graduate Academy was very useful, giving me a real insight into how my own background and attributes can benefit a group. We were very sad to leave after the second week but we all keep in touch online, to assist each other with our assignments, to share wisdom and arrange reunions!

My placement as part of the Graduate Academy was at Weartech in Port Talbot, a company that manufactures wear-resistant alloys and welding products. The GO Wales placements team couldn’t have been more helpful in terms of finding the placement for me, offering support, administration, etc. The work was varied, focusing on two main aspects: taking measurements using an infrared camera and helping the company to achieve the ISO 14001 environmental certification. In addition, I had to find out as much as possible about Weartech’s structure and culture in order to complete the Graduate Academy assignments which helped me to identify how I would need to adapt my thought processes to succeed in this industry.

Although I initially opted for an engineering placement only as a compromise between my scientific background and my commercial ambitions, I settled in very well and I am now mainly looking for jobs in this sector. My feedback from my supervisor was both positive and constructive, reassuring me that the skills I picked up at university are useful in industry as well as academia, and that with enough hard work, I will eventually become a senior manager in a multinational engineering company. The Graduate Academy experience has really strengthened my profile, and the resulting qualification from the Institute of Leadership and Management will underline my ambitions and help me find that elusive graduate job.