Metallurgy training at the Atomic Weapons Establishment

Materials World magazine
1 Jun 2006

Due to a shortage in trained metallurgists, the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), based in Reading, UK, is now recruiting personnel with qualifications in materials science, materials engineering and chemistry that will be trained through its in-house programme.

Today, there are very few university degree courses in the UK focusing specifically on metallurgy and metallurgical engineering. Materials science, materials engineering and mechanical engineering courses often have metallurgical content, but the breadth and depth tends to be limited for specialist applications.

The new AWE recruits will receive practical training that requires a fundamental understanding of basic metallurgical principles. The trainees will often require additional tuition in this area.

The proposed training could take the form of a modular course providing multi-level access to a range of skill levels. Ultimately aimed at MSc candidates, there is the opportunity for other staff to obtain certificates/diplomas/credits towards their continuous professional development. The multi-level/modular approach would be particularly relevant to the training of technicians as in most cases it would not be appropriate for this group to embark on the full MSc.

The plan is to focus specifically on metallurgy and metallurgical engineering. Ideally, AWE would want to partner with one or more academic institutions to get the courses up and running, probably using existing course material as the basis for developing the modules. From an industrial perspective, it seems many organisations are experiencing difficulties in this area and AWE would welcome views from other sectors on the proposed approach to tackling the problem.

Following an initial meeting with representatives of IOM3 in March 2006, it was agreed that the next step would be to establish the actual scale of the problem. This would help find other industrial partners interested in working with AWE to develop a supplementary training course, and identify those academic institutions that might wish to be involved as course providers. The Institute's role is to act as an independent coordinating agent and accreditor of any course material generated.A one-day open discussion workshop will be held at the Institute's London headquarters, 1 Carlton House Terrace, on 7 November 2006 to establish the key issues and identify the industrial and academic partners interested in progressing this initiative.


Further information:

Gary Burnell, Atomic Weapons Establishment. Email:
Peter Davis, IOM3. Email: