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From PhD to welding…

Graeme Kirkpatrick is possibly one of Northern Ireland’s most highly qualified tradespeople.

The Masters graduate is a published scientist at just 24 after studying the reputed cancer-fighting powers of Manuka honey.

Until recently, he was applying for PhDs to advance his biotechnology research.

But Graeme, from Greyabbey, County Down, is now making sparks in an entirely different sector.

After spotting an advertisement for a welding apprenticeship, he is now doing an intensive six-week course launched by the government in a bid to tackle a shortage of qualified welders in Northern Ireland.

Despite some surprise about his move from academia to construction, Graeme is convinced his decision is wise, if not unusual.

“I think most of my family were a bit surprised initially when I said I was doing the apprenticeship, however they recognise it’s a good opportunity to learn a trade and gain a qualification in a short period of time,” he says.

“In some ways, I miss the books, but this is an opportunity to do something more hands on. It is lucrative work.
“There are opportunities if you have the qualifications and skills. It is a chance I am very happy to have and a passport for travel and working abroad.”

Graeme, whose dad and brothers are welders, originally opted out of construction to be the first of his family to go to university.

“It was my own choice and a goal I’d set for myself after my A Levels. Having completed my BSc and MSc, my goal became a PhD,” he says.

“I had been in full-time education since I was in primary school until this welding opportunity came up.”