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Aerospace leaders meet to address skills crisis

Representatives from the aerospace industry, academia and public sector organisations gathered at Cranfield University on Friday (21st April) for the inaugural Marshall Skills Summit, an event addressing the sector’s engineering and technical skills shortage.

Image courtesy Marshall

At a time when the skills shortage poses an existential threat to global aviation, the Marshall Skills Summit provided a much-needed opportunity to bring leaders together to work on a plan to fast-track young people into the industry.

Hosted by Marshall CEO Kathy Jenkins, the event was attended by a broad range of prominent industry figures from organisations including Airbus, BAE Systems, Boeing, Bombardier, British Airways, GKN, MBDA and Lockheed Martin, who put their commercial allegiances aside and committed to working together to deliver sustainable long-term solutions for developing a pipeline of future talent.

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Kathy Jenkins explained: “The very fact that so many senior people from across our industry committed their time to attend the event says a lot about the scale of the skills challenge we all face. This well-documented shortage is already starting to hold back our organisations and will only become more serious over the coming years.

“Our proud track record in delivering industry-leading apprenticeships, along with our broader commitment to skills development, puts Marshall at the heart of this conversation and I wanted to bring people together to talk about how we can work together to address this challenge.

“It is abundantly clear that we need to start to think and do things differently and I was delighted to be able to bring some outside speakers in for the event who shared some great examples of programmes that have worked elsewhere both in the UK and overseas.

“There is a lot of work for us to do. However, I have been delighted with how my industry peers have responded to my call to action today. I believe we have made some significant progress with potential to make a real difference — not just for our industry but for lots of young people who might otherwise not find their way to a career in aerospace or engineering.”

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Importantly, Marshall included plenty of younger voices in the conversation, inviting some apprentices currently training with Marshall Skills Academy to share their experiences and views. As is so often the case, they proved to be the stars of the show – not only coming up with some great insights but also showcasing their hand skills by creating a unique sculpture to mark the event.

Event co-host Emily Argyrou, a fourth-year apprentice currently on rotation with Marshall’s Futureworx accelerator arm, commented: “One of our guest speakers said something that really resonated with all the apprentices at the event: that it’s no use thinking we need to go out and ‘find’ talented young people, we need to focus on ‘making’ them, which means engaging with them at the earliest possible opportunity and making engineering an accessible part of the school curriculum.

“Appreciating that is not a quick fix, we decided to put our own hand skills to the test to create a physical manifestation of the commitment that industry has made by coming here today, so together we ‘made’ our own apprentice.”

Reflecting on the success of the first Skills Summit event, Marshall Skills Academy General Manager Dan Edwards commented: “The level of engagement from all involved has been incredibly encouraging. In addition to hearing from knowledgeable and thought-provoking speakers, we made a great deal of progress towards meaningful and tangible outcomes around the skills and labour shortage.

“It is important now that we keep this conversation alive and hold ourselves to account for driving initiatives that will make a difference, and I look forward to announcing some exciting plans in the not too distant future.”

 

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