Go on, think the unthinkable

Help create tomorrow's world today.

DERA IS the single largest employer of scientists in the UK. Formed by the merger of a number of Ministry of Defence research establishments, it is now a government agency - providing scientific and engineering research and development for military and, increasingly, civil use.

Although the organisation's roots lie in military defence, DERA's activities are increasingly becoming focused on adapting and developing military technologies for commercial clients as MOD budgets are cut back. As a result of this and its size, DERA employs a staff of 12,000, and its annual turnover currently exceeds pounds 1bn. The good news for graduates is that the organisation needs to take on more than 500 of them each year.

"Think the unthinkable" is the organisation's graduate recruitment theme. "We are looking for people who can prove they look beyond the surface, people with inquisitive and innovative minds," graduate recruitment co- ordinator Caryn Baker explains. In return, DERA offers unrivalled opportunities to work across a broad range of technical business areas, from aviation, chemical and biological defence through electronics and human sciences to signals, processing and space technology.

One of DERA's many roles is providing specialist test and evaluation equipment for the UK forces. The organisation played a vital role in developing the UK's first jet engines. More recently, it has become involved with research and development projects for commercial clients such as BMW and Rolls-Royce. DERA has one of the world's few facilities able to test engine performance at speeds of up to Mach 2.2 in the subzero conditions encountered at high altitude.

Carbon fibre, liquid crystal display, flat-screen television, portable thermal imaging, ocean mapping, modelling technology and satellite propulsion systems are some of the advanced technology fields in which DERA scientists work. Formula One designers are some of those who have used DERA's wind- tunnel facilities.

DERA's aviation scientists developed a concept for ultra-thin loudspeakers able to be concealed as paintings on a wall, or within TV or PC screens. Meanwhile DERAMan, one of the world's most intelligent crash-test dummies, was developed by DERA to measure damage to the brain from impacts to the head, enabling physical responses from impacts to be quantified simultaneously.

At the core of DERA's activities, however, are its defence-related research and development projects. DERA scientists have been closely involved in research into air, sea and land systems as well as electronics and structural materials. Then there's the weapons testing and work on developing the Eurofighter 2000.

DERA does not operate a centrally structured graduate programme. Instead, it invites applications from science and engineering graduates to its graduate recruitment department which then distributes details of the strongest candidates to each of DERA's 13 technical departments which, in turn, approach, select and recruit candidates direct.

"Graduates apply to work with DERA in a particular technical area," Ms Baker explains. "Although they can state preferences such as where they would like to be based." DERA has 17 major sites throughout the UK and a further 33 or so smaller ones, including test facilities.

The bulk of those taken on through this process are science and engineering graduates with first degrees. Others include maths-related graduates, M.Sc. and Ph.D-holders. A smaller number of more senior personnel and management roles are open to arts and humanities graduates, depending on the level of work experience. Recruitment occurs throughout the year and vacancies are increasing as DERA's business grows. Ms Baker says: "We do not operate assessment centres and while those appointed do participate in an induction course, successful candidates start work on live projects very soon after joining the organisation."

Even so, competition is fierce - with applicants outnumbering vacancies by 10 to one. DERA competes for the best graduates against commercial sector employers such as British Aerospace, Ford and Nissan - particularly for IT and software engineering expertise. However, the bulk of those taken on by the organisation each year are physics graduates and computer scientists.

Successful graduates join DERA in the role of research scientist or research engineer, working in project teams from day one. Initial progress as well as longer-term career development is managed on a one-to-one basis by a mentor known as a resource manager. All are encouraged to present research papers at relevant technical symposia.

"Recruits must take responsibility for their own career development and training, although they are supported by a structure which nurtures talents and encourages training," Ms Baker adds. DERA helps graduates to gain chartered status within the organisation - the DERA chartered engineer scheme is accredited by the Royal Aeronautical Society, among others - and membership of a professional body, as well as sponsoring participation in Ph.D or MBA programmes.

Starting salaries are up to pounds 18,500 p.a., depending on qualifications and experience. Potential salaries a few years into the job are difficult to gauge, however, as promotion is not automatic within this structure. Staff must compete for job vacancies, which are advertised first internally.

Those wanting to move eventually into a managerial position are now able to combine administrative and technical roles within the organisation. "This is a significant appeal to many people who in the past opted not to move up the ranks because they wanted to remain 'hands on'," she says. The progression from entry level is towards the role of project manager.

DERA's immediate plans include developing a number of science parks to encourage the transfer of technological expertise from the military to local industry and universities.

"We aim to be at the cutting edge of research and development and can offer unparalleled opportunities to graduates wanting to work in an innovative environment," Ms Baxter says, claiming that the only comparable experience would be pursuing a career in academia. "More and more, now, DERA's work is not just concerned with inventions but inventing and innovating within the time and cost constraints of the consumer."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

    £20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

    £8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

    Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

    £14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

    Ashdown Group: Senior .Net Developer - Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey

    £70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A long-established, technology rich ...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable