Aaron Kirkbride is one of our volunteer Members, having become a Member in 2013 he talks us through his career in engineering, becoming Professionally Registered as well as his experiences of volunteering with us!
My name is Aaron Kirkbride, BEng MSc IWE/EWE CEng, CQP, MWeldI, MCQI; I’m 27 years old and originally from Washington, located in the Northeast.
I’m currently a Welding Engineer with Rolls-Royce Submarines Ltd in Derby. Prior to this, I studied a BEng (Hons) in Mechanical Engineering at Northumbria University, Newcastle followed by an MSc in Welding Engineering at Cranfield University, Bedfordshire. I also have an International / European Welding Engineer diploma (I/EWE) through TWI Ltd, as well as being a Chartered Engineer (CEng) and Chartered Quality Professional (CQP).
When did you join The Welding Institute?
I became a Student Member way back in 2013.
Please describe your current job role and responsibilities:
As a Welding Engineer, my responsibilities include the qualification of welding procedures, providing technical support to production, and undertaking QA/QC activities. This covers a vast array of processes, materials, and applications though in my current role I focus on mechanized cladding for pressure vessels.
The business is at the forefront of innovation, so I’m becoming more involved in technically challenging projects, such as additive manufacturing and bi-cathode cladding.
Why did you choose a career in engineering?
I always wanted to be an engineer, but I did not quite know the route to take. At the time, I didn’t think college or university really was for me as I struggled with exams, and my Grandad was quite adamant I get an apprenticeship to learn a trade. I ended up getting one with a local company, and over the last decade, I’ve gradually progressed from an apprentice welder to a welding engineer.
What’s one of your biggest career highlights or achievements that you’re most proud of?
I did a part-time HNC at South Tyneside College when I was still a welder. This was one of the best decisions I ever made and was genuinely one of the best courses I’ve ever done. After leaving school, I wasn’t very confident at maths or science, but with doing, the HNC really bridged that gap and cemented the idea that I wasn’t just restricted to the practical welding side. To this day, I still recommend doing an HNC, as despite being technically challenging, it gave me a brilliant insight into the science behind welding and gave me enthusiasm to pursue it further.
What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome this?
Making the transition from welder to welding engineer, as it’s not a well-defined route. At the time, I didn’t know what qualifications I needed or how to get there, though there’s now some colleges offering a distance learning HNC in welding & fabrication. Even now, I find its one of a few fields where many engineers have previously started as hands-on, practical apprentices, as opposed to joining a business as a graduate with a degree.
Why did you initially join The Welding Institute?
My supervisor at the time was the Chair of the local Branch. He encouraged me to attend the monthly technical talks, which I’m happy to admit, being a welding apprentice at the time most of them went straight over my head! I was given a free Associate Membership, and shortly after, I ended up joining the Branch as a committee Member. As I’ve moved businesses over the years, I’ve been very fortunate to have mentors in each who have continued to support me being involved and given me the time off when needed.
Tell us a bit about the process of becoming a Member of The Welding Institute:
I joined as an Associate student grade (AWeldI) which I held for a couple of years whilst I was still studying. I ended up becoming a Professional Member (MWeldI) once I became Professionally Registered.
Are you professionally registered?
Yes, I’m a CEng with The Welding Institute (MWeldI), and also a CQP with the Chartered Quality Institute (MCQI).
What was the process of Professional Registration like and why did you choose to become professionally registered?
I started my journey to Professional Registration by first becoming an Engineering Technician (EngTech) followed by gaining Incorporated Engineer (IEng) status and then finally CEng last year. I chose to become Professionally Registered as it demonstrates my competence and experience in the sector, as well as being recognised internationally. Whilst CEng is very familiar to most in engineering roles, you can gain EngTech and IEng much earlier in your career, but this not quite as well known. CEng typically requires you to demonstrate several years working in challenging applications with a high level of responsibility in your respective field. I also chose to gain CQP, as it was extremely relevant to my role as it includes undertaking quality assurance and compliance operations.
How has professional membership/registration helped you throughout your career?
I think the biggest benefit of Professional Membership was the connection I’ve been able to have with the members of my local Branch. I was able to network with and be surrounded by fellow engineers, at different stages of their own careers, who are able to offer so much in advice. At this point, guidance was vital at such an early stage in my career. Professional Registration has allowed me to demonstrate my competence and experience to my employer and colleagues by having this independently assessed and verified.
What membership benefits do you use the most and find the most helpful and why?
I’ve found the WeldaSearch tool particularly useful, especially when I’m looking to qualify or develop a new material or process. I’m able to access thousands of technical publications and research papers, which whilst they might not always cover my specific application, in most cases they can give me leads on where to look next.
What current volunteer roles do you undertake?
Why do you undertake these volunteer roles and what are the benefits of volunteering with The Welding Institute?
Many people, even those who are existing Members of The Welding Institute, don’t realise the amount of effort and the hours that the Branch Members, all volunteers, give up supporting their local region. Whether it’s technical talks, site visits, equipment demonstrations or even annual dinners, it will be the Branch committee who organise all this and spend countless hours making sure that you get the most from your membership. Being on the Institute’s Professional Board has allowed me to play an even bigger role in this, as I can now see and contribute at a much higher level by being able to have a say on the Institute’s governance and direction for its Professional Members.
What advice would you give to anyone considering, or even currently undertaking volunteer roles with The Welding Institute?
Do it. Whilst we are now past Covid-19, many Branches are still feeling the effects and are struggling to regain the traction that we once had. To combat this, many have transitioned from face-to-face meetings to online talks to increase the number of attendees, but the Branches’ themselves still rely on Members coming forward and contributing to this. Many, if not all Branches will have openings for Committee Members where you can have your say on your local Branch and help shape it. Most will also have positions for Branch officer, roles that undertake a specific responsibility such as Programme Secretary (organising Branch events), Treasurer (management of Branch finances) or Young Members Representative (recruitment of Younger Members). These roles can be hugely rewarding, and you would be supported by your fellow Committee Members, most of whom have probably held the role before you!
What are your engineering aspirations?
I’m currently in the process of applying for European Engineer (EUR ING) status, and I’m enrolled on the International Metal Additive Manufacturing Coordinator (IMAMC) course being ran by the EWF, which is similar to the IWE though for Additive Manufacturing. A long way off but I would eventually like to gain Fellowship status (FWeldI) in the future and would like to possibly do a PhD in a related discipline.
What advice would you give or what would you say to your younger self-beginning your career in engineering?
It’s a very long path to becoming a Welding Engineer, but it’s been worth it. I’ve become highly qualified, and the role is technically challenging and changes every day. I’m very fortunate that colleagues who have been of a similar mind-set surrounded me and pushed me to get more involved. If you want to get more involved and don’t know where to start, contact your local Branch – they will be more than happy to give you guidance, not just on membership and getting involved with the Institute, but on your career as well.
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