Recruiting people with the right skills is a challenge according many in hi-tech and low carbon businesses in north Wales. On the other hand, there is an assumption among local young people that there are no relevant, well-paid jobs close to home.

We caught up with two Bangor University students, who have developed their skills, seen opportunities for careers, and are now working to help bridge the gap.

Ilan Davies is from Bala, and Aeron Jones from Llangefni, and both now work and study at Bangor University.

Ilan and Aeron

What did you study at University, and what was the intention behind this?

Ilan: Electronic Engineering at Bangor. Because I lived with a father with disabilities, and I realised what a disadvantage people like him were at in the world. Through studying electronics, I hoped to get the key skills required to create products and understand better how to help people with disabilities have a more ‘normal’ life. My interests were around technology such as wheelchairs, ventilators, and so on. After visiting several Universities’ open days, Bangor felt most like home. The fact that the Welsh language was used here, and in the Electronic Engineering school, and that the Dyslexia unit was able to provide bilingual support, was a big draw for me.

Aeron: I also studied Electronic Engineering, after igniting my interest during GCSEs. My parents work in the medical sector so it’s always been in my nature to help people, and through my engineering skills and contacts at Bangor, I have succeeded in applying my knowledge in the medical devices sector!

Is there a period at University which stands out, for you?

Ilan: To tell you the truth, there have been many high points! Academically, the main one was an internship over summer with Hitachi GE in Japan! Also, attending Enterprise by Design to develop employability skills along with students from other schools within the University – a great opportunity which I would recommend to others. When I graduated in 2017, I received the Dr John Roberts Jones Award, which is awarded to students with exceptional academic performance! Socially, the activities with the Bangor Welsh Student Union were fantastic.

Aeron: I had an internship in Paris, studying renewable energy at ECE Paris! I also received the Dr John Roberts Jones Award, which was an honour. Working on a medical device for my master's projects was also a high point.

Excellent! Both of you have worked really hard, and had time to travel and learn as well! So, where do you work now?

Ilan: For the company Creo Medical, the Medical Microwave System Research Group (MMRSG) at the Bangor University School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering! I’m also a PhD student.

Aeron: Half the time I work for Creao Medical, and the other half I work for Bangor University, researching innovative technology which could be used in the medical sector, and I am the lab manager for MMSRG!

Plenty to keep you busy then! You’ve stayed local too – was that important to you while choosing a University and a career?

Ilan: I hadn’t stayed local to be honest. I was working in Bath for the past three years, but I got relocated due to COVID-19. Working locally has allowed me to work and communicate in Welsh, and this has been an advantage in terms of work and also my social life. One of the reasons I enjoy working in Bangor is the chance to speak Welsh, although when I lived in Bath one of my co-workers started learning Welsh!

Aeron: I hadn’t thought of it as ‘staying local’, I just enjoyed being close to my friends and family. It’s not a bad thing either that it’s relatively cheaper to live here, and it’s a really nice area to live in! Welsh is my second language, but I try and speak it as much as possible. I speak it conversationally every day, and am also learning electronic and medical terms as I go!

Very interesting. Now finally, I must ask, what would you say to others about the opportunities available locally? Can we, as M-SParc, help with this?

Ilan: If there are opportunities in the region to work in the field you’re in, I would encourage people to go for it! It’s essential to get the right person, with the right skills, and it’s also an advantage to get someone who speaks Welsh and who understands the local community. M-SParc can influence entrepreneurs and local scientists, to work together and help businesses develop and thrive. You can encourage co-working, links to education, and encourage companies to use Welsh daily as part of the local culture.

Aeron: I think it’s difficult in the region to come across careers within the engineering industry, but M-SParc could be the missing link which could work as signposting for such careers, to ensure local people are aware of the jobs, rather than losing them to larger cities! That’s how you keep those who speak Welsh or are local to Wales in the region, and encourage them to speak the language, and help the local economy to grow.

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