Monthly Archives: July 2020

31Jul/20

From physics degree to graduate work – SEPnet & WRIPA’s recent webinar discusses the challenges for graduate employability in the current climate

Over 80 academics, careers professionals and industry representatives joined SEPnet and WRIPA’s webinar on embedding employability to discuss the mobility of physics graduates’ and how to develop their career-ready mindset – particularly in the current challenging climate.

Presenters included Brooke Storer-Church of Office for Students, Charlie Ball of Prospects; academics Al Buckley at University of Sheffield, Mike Edwards at Keele University, Sinead D’Silva from Universidade de Lisboa and Samantha Pugh at Leeds. Professor Sir William Wakeham chaired the event. The presenters were joined by a panel of employers – Rikki Douglas, Ultra Energy; Adrian King, AWE; Riham Satti, MeVitae and Bill Stafford, BAE Systems.

Some of the key points arising from the discussion included:
• Hard to fill graduate roles persist in programming, software development and engineering and this is not expected to change post-COVID-19.
• Employers report graduate vacancies are hard to fill due to candidates lacking technical/practical skills including complex problem-solving skills; complex numerical or statistical skills and role-specific specialist skills. High-level communication skills was also highlighted as an area where STEM/physics graduates need to improve.
• Approximately 85% of physics students study within 100km of home and about 65% end up working within 20km of home
• ‘Physics Stayers’ do really well in terms of graduate-level work. (A ‘Stayer’ travels to a different region from their domiciled address to study and remains in the same region to work).
• “Science ego” (a combination of science capital (influences at home), feeling of belonging and knowledge that studying physics makes you highly employable) can work against students who feel they do not have to work on their employability skills.

You can view the presentations here: D’Silva and Pugh-WRIPA_SEPnet 23 July SEPnet WRIPA Storer-Church MEdwards Presentation Slides  WRIPA presentation_AB  SEPnet 230720_Charlie Ball

A fuller report will be made available to attendees at a later date.  For more information contact employerengagement@sepnet.ac.uk

20Jul/20

SEPnet launches new model for SME collaborative PhD studentships!

Following the success of SEPnet’s PhD SME Consortium in Radiation Detectors (RADnet), SEPnet has successfully won a £370k funding bid from the Research England Development (RED) fund to roll out collaborative PhDs with SMEs. The collaborative project will be led by University of Surrey.

Funding a PhD with a university can be an effective way of conducting research but the cost of research for knowledge-based SMEs can be prohibitive. By building collaborative networks we are able to create a critical mass of research to support both regional activity and national science priorities.

The aim is to recruit a total of 12 PhDs over 3.5 years. As well as radiation detectors, we will explore developing projects related to condensed matter, numerical modelling, simulation and gaming, data science, quantum technologies, medical imaging, photonic materials and sensors – all areas where SEPnet universities have expertise.

This scheme will enable companies to share the costs of PhD studentships with university partners and government funding. Companies will work with academics to shape the projects to ensure that work carried out is in line with each company’s business strategy. SMEs will have regular contact with the academics and the student throughout the 3.5 year programme to ensure the research remains relevant to their needs.

The project is scheduled to start this summer. A part-time project manager will be recruited to coordinate the programme. The first PhD students will be recruited in 2021.

For more information contact Veronica.Benson@sepnet.ac.uk

15Jul/20

Graduate Skills Gap in Physics 2020

The physics graduate “skills gap” – what it is and how to address it

Sean Ryan & Veronica Benson, South East Physics Network, spring 2020
pdf (424 kB): (SkillsGap2020)

Physics graduates are highly employable, and a lower fraction take up non-graduate roles than the national average, but there is a perception that they do not possess the range of technical and ‘employability’ skills that industry requires. In this report, we examine the gap in physics graduates’ range of industry-valued skills, and what universities and industry can do to address it.

Summary and recommendations

With technological change and the demand for new graduate skills accelerating, the physics skills gap will be a continually evolving feature of the physics graduate workplace.
Universities and business need to work together, in ways that have been shown to be effective, to reduce the impact of the skills gap on physicists’ futures and on industry.
There is an onus on academics and the IOP to ensure that physics departments increasingly embed both specialist and transferable skills that graduates and employers have identified, that they increase students’ awareness of these skills and their career options, and that sector requirements are updated continually.
There is an onus on employers and industry to provide the structured placement opportunities wherein students can develop the industry-relevant skills that employers expect graduates to possess.
Coupled with the need for a greater number of placement opportunities to satisfy the high number of physics students pursuing industry-relevant work experience, there is a need for more geographically-diverse and sector-diverse placements, for example provided by SMEs. SMEs are an important contributor to the UK’s economic powerhouse, but historically they have been less likely to offer paid placements. The SEPnet 8-week summer placement scheme involves much smaller financial outlays and time commitments than the traditional full-year placement model, so is well suited to industrial newcomers as well as to students who do not wish to prolong their degrees. Physics students cannot graduate with the full suite of industry-ready skills without the full suite of UK industry providing industry-relevant workplace experiences.
There is also a role for supervisors, research tutors, heads of department, research councils and other funders of research to encourage PhD students to identify and take up placement opportunities to develop industry-relevant knowledge and skills during their studies.