Britain’s Secret Engineers – QinetiQ

Want to know what it’s like working for one of the largest employers of science and technology PhDs in the UK? On Sunday night, BBC2 showed an hour long programme about the engineers working for QinetiQ, and it will be available on the BBC iPlayer until this Sunday (18th July), at:

QinetiQ started life as part of the UK Government defence research establishment, but they were spun off into a private company some years ago.

They employ around 7,000 people in the UK, and, as their CEO commented in the programme, about 10% of their UK workforce have PhDs.

The BBC programme focused on engineers working for QinetiQ, as that was the emphasis of the TV series as a whole, but QinetiQ also employ other science disciplines – for example, they work in the “Human protection & performance enhancement” market which includes facilities such as a sleep laboratory, metabolic laboratory and a whole load more, which might be of interest to life and chemical scientists, as well as the more obvious engineers, physicists, computer scientists and mathematicians.

The programme isn’t an in-depth exposé of the company, so you’ll get a pretty rosy picture of life working for QinetiQ. However, it doesn’t hide the fact that the employees shown refitting Chinook helicopters for UK armed forces are working very long hours, in some cases working away from home (living in caravans!) – but with a strong sense of purpose to their work.

Previous programmes in the series have covered “How to Build … a Jumbo Jet Engine” (jet engines with Rolls Royce) and “How to Build … a Nuclear Submarine” (built by BAE Systems for the Royal Navy), and both are available until this Sunday night on iPlayer.

If you’re thinking about applying to any of these companies, I’d suggest watching the relevant programme to get a feel for what it’s like working for them – and to give you some great material to answer the question “why do you want to work for us?”

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2 comments on “Britain’s Secret Engineers – QinetiQ

  1. Hi Elizabeth, I’ve just been watching BBC 2’s documentary on defence firm, QinetiQ. A search for “open day” and “QinetiQ” took me to your item on the university’s PhD in technology. A cousin of mine in his early 20’s is interested in robotics and I’m wondering if you might know of any open days that might provide some inspiration to a youngster in electronics. A degree would probably be beyond him for the time being but if you are aware of any open events could you please let me know. Many thanks, Bruce Garnham-Smith

    • Hi Bruce

      Hmm, not really my area of expertise (more used to finding jobs for postgrads!) but I’d suggest checking his nearest science museum – they’re all over the place, including MOSI in Manchester, Techniquest in Wrexham and Cardiff etc. There’s a list at the UK Association for Science & Discovery Centres (ASDC).

      Alternatively, find out which universities have robotics courses, or engineering courses which include robotics, and they may have open days or events coming up. To do this, you could do a UCAS search for Robotics courses. This would at least give you a starting point.

      The IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology, the professional body for electrical engineers in the UK) may run events, but many will be aimed at schools. Have a look at their educational resources – or do a search for robotics on their website and that may uncover some local events or resources?

      You may also find events at one of the many Science Festivals now run in the UK. Manchester’s is in October, but there’s a country wide list on the ASDC website.

      Hope that gets him started

      Best regards
      Elizabeth

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