At this year’s Annual Conference the New Professionals Forum (NPF) focussed on continuous professional development. This was a fitting choice after the group hosted a successful series of personal development webinars on topics such as imposter syndrome and developing your personal brand earlier in the year. Rolls-Royce kindly sponsored the conference and it was held at their Bristol site.

About the New Professionals Forum

The New Professionals Forum is a peer-to-peer support group for early careers professionals and those new to our sectors. Many of the conference attendees were on apprenticeships or graduate schemes and eager to gain insight, motivation, tips and career path clarity. The NPF is run by a voluntary committee encompassing roles such as Chair, Event Manager, Onboarding Executive and Secretary. We are currently recruiting the committee for 2024.

This has been the second of the conferences I have been lucky to lead for The NPF. The skills and experiences this forum has given me have been second to none. I have made contacts and friends through my time organising events and representing Leonardo which I will forever be grateful for.

Kristy Ireland, Systems Engineer at Leonardo and NPF Event Manager

A thought provoking morning

We heard from ADS’ HR Director Beth Henson and Roll-Royce’s Alex Zino, who offered personal experiences of their careers including their highlights and recommendations.

Then followed a panel session looking at what continuous professional development meant from the perspective of those in their early careers. Representatives from the NPF discussed their challenges and gave advice including asking yourself whether thinking about your boss’ role made you happy or sad! A great tip for career progression planning!

Next was an opportunity to hear from those at the top including Serco’s Doug Umbers, Boeing’s Laura Perry, Leonardo’s Rob Edmunds and Rolls-Royce’s Alexander Darvill. In a Fireside Chat, panelists shared their career progression and offered plenty of tips for new professionals to navigate CPD. For them, the key to professional growth was the art of self awareness and embracing feedback – even negative comments – for reflection and resilience. In the Q&A they discussed how to deal with feelings of being overwhelmed and creating an inclusive and diverse team.

An academic viewpoint

The afternoon sessions looked beyond industry to academia. We heard from Dick Bacon, volunteer at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) who dissected the core elements of CPD and from Zara Johnson from the University of Southampton and beneficiary Nikhil Raja, who outlined the ground breaking £1.5m new initiative: The Defence and Security Mobility Doctorial Training Partnership (DTP). The event concluded with an audience participation workshop.

Chartership Routes

Chartership was a key focus of the day, with a deep dive into how to acquire chartership, the implications for career progression and the average timeframe for completion. From a quick poll, half of the audience were pursuing a chartership to some degree, however for many it was useful to learn about the differences between charterships, the process to apply and what success would mean for them.

A chance to network

Networking is a key component for career development yet interaction in early career programmes such as graduate schemes and apprenticeships, is often only with day to day colleagues. The conference offered attendees the chance to meet and talk with others in a similar position to themselves. Attendees were encouraged to connect on LinkedIn to develop their network with others who shared similar career aspirations or interests. This type of interaction is key to both the development of individuals in their early careers, as well benefiting the companies they work for.

The outcome of the day was very positive with attendees looking forward to future events, however a common sentiment among both attendees and guest speakers was that the NPF is still unknown to many new professionals in industry. The Forum is a great support network and we encourage everyone reading this to sign up and make the most of the group and spread the word.