Farnborough International Airshow 2016 once again extended opportunity to Britain’s young people, many of whom took eager advantage of the event’s Futures Day on 15 July. MOD DCB features writer Domhnall Macinnes caught up with Paul Everitt, Chief Executive at ADS Group, to discuss Futures Day and opportunities for training and apprenticeships in the UK defence aerospace sector.
Futures Day at the biennial Farnborough International Airshow is a means by which leading aerospace trade association ADS and the event organisers can inform, excite and inspire the next generation of aviation and aerospace professionals. The day is an extension of aerospace’s overall mission to teach and intrigue the youth of today about the myriad opportunities available across both civil and defence aerospace.
On Futures Day, young people aged between 11 and 21 have the opportunity to visit the show free of charge, providing they attend through a school, youth organisation, university or similar initiative and are interested in learning more regarding STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – in an interactive and engaging format.
ADS Group Chief Executive Paul Everitt explained: “We work with a range of partners who work on a regular basis to promote science, technology, engineering and maths as a STEM agenda for young people. We broadly have two ranges of activities. For ages 15 and under, we’re very much focused on STEM-related hands-on activities, enabling this age group to better understand the kind of actions going on in our industries.
“For ages 15 and above we are very much focused on encouraging these young people to engage with individuals already in the industry, aiding them to understand and learn from them. We also support and provide workshops for those young people who are making choices about what kinds of topics they should pursue and what they need to study, and who perhaps need help with their CVs.”
Futures Day is organised by ADS in partnership with the Engineering Development Trust (EDT), the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) and Inspiring Futures. The event is sponsored by an array of big defence companies including Raytheon, QinetiQ, Thales and MBDA.
The hands-on opportunities at Futures Day 2016 extended from being able to watch 3D printing in action, through opportunities to have a shot on a flight simulator, to the chance to watch a live air display. The Innovation Zone within the arena also offered students the ability to experience futuristic aerospace technology and engage with academic institutions.
There was also a wide range of inspirational people on hand to engage with the young people present. The Red Arrows displayed their flying talent and innovative technologies, while making themselves available to meet the students. The team talked about their careers, how they got into flying and the types of studies and qualifications they had to undertake and achieve. The representatives present ranged from aircraft pilots through to members of the ground crew who provide such vital support.
Indeed, it was something of a coup that Major Timothy Nigel ‘Tim’ Peake CMG, the first British ESA astronaut, was present to inaugurate Futures Day at Farnborough 2016. Major Peake addressed a packed crowd of excited youngsters, having only returned from his mission aboard the International Space Station a month prior to the event.
Mr Everitt commented: “In my job I talk to an awful lot of people who say their first experience of the aerospace industry came when they visited Farnborough with their parents. For us ensuring that we can continue the inspiration role is really important and Futures Day is one of the ways in which we look to do that. It’s quite a unique atmosphere during the course of the day. Many of the major businesses have their stands manned by their apprentices or young people on graduate programmes.
“Being able to directly engage with the young people who are visiting – explaining what they do, how they got involved, what an apprenticeship means and what it means to them as an individual – is a really fantastic ability. This is a more engaging means as opposed to the structured talk or presentation style.”
Mr Everitt noted that in terms of recruitment, defence companies in the UK such as BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Airbus don’t face too many challenges when engaging with and recruiting young people. In fact, it is very often the case that their graduate and apprenticeship programmes are oversubscribed.
BAE Systems, for example, offers a varied selection of apprenticeships and graduate and undergraduate programmes in locations all over the UK. The company even has an Education Roadshow – in partnership with the RAF and the Royal Navy – which visits schools across the UK, stimulating interest in science and engineering. The bigger challenge for recruitment into the industry is faced rather by the smaller aerospace firms.
Mr Everitt explained: “The biggest challenge faced by industry today is stimulating the flow-down of up and coming talent into the smaller and medium-sized enterprises. These companies don’t enjoy the obvious name recognition and are perhaps only recruiting a small number of people on an annual basis.”
Indeed, SMEs are less known for the graduate and training opportunities they are able to offer. The positive side to working for an SME is that they can sometimes offer more varied work opportunities than the bigger businesses; furthermore, a graduate or apprentice working in a smaller company will be in the position of working closely with senior staff, where their ideas may be more valued.
The ongoing challenge for SMEs, however, is how a smaller company can make itself more widely known in the recruitment market, and how industry can persuade those seeking training, such as graduate jobs and apprenticeships, to look to the smaller companies.
Mr Everitt said: “I think for us the challenge is how we ensure that those talented people, who want to be working for some of those bigger businesses with a more powerful brand, recognise and value the opportunities that actually are available throughout the wider UK aerospace and defence supply chain.
“When you go and talk to the major businesses, you see that they not only do a huge amount in terms of their own recruitment, but also in supporting companies in their supply chain. We see this ourselves at ADS when we’re encouraging engagement between prime contractors and the supply chain. I think one of the challenges is how we create a larger pipeline of young people who are appropriately qualified for the opportunities that exist in our sector.”
He continued: “Aerospace and defence are growing global sectors – we’re seeing employment opportunities in the UK increase across both civil and defence aerospace, and in the market trends. So for us it’s about how we ensure we have a pipeline of appropriately qualified young people who are ready to take up the opportunities that these sectors offer.”
In conclusion, Mr Everitt touched on just some of the exciting opportunities available in the defence aerospace sector.
Mr Everitt said: “We are a high-value, high-tech sector. There are significant opportunities for apprentices in the manufacturing side of business, but also in the research and development side too. There’s a lot of focus for us on new materials and electrical systems, so there’s a high demand for electrical engineers. Software design is also a significant area.
“We are a big and sophisticated business requiring skills of all sorts