What do you and your company do?
Adrian Harrison: We support major players in the global aviation market via the prime manufacturers and have worked on various programmes including the highly successful Airbus A320, A380 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner commercial aircraft soon to enter service. We have companies designing and manufacturing components across such diverse products and industries as military aircraft, oil/gas and space industries, electrical power and gas supply systems and production of food and drink.
The engineering and manufacturing sector comprises 52 companies scattered across the Island employing approximately 2,500 people from all skill sets ranging from trainees through to skilled operators and designers. Through the ACE project (Awareness of Careers in Engineering), I am helping to encourage people to see the Engineering profession as a viable, long term and rewarding career choice.
Richard Hamer: BAE Systems is one of the world’s leading defence, security and aerospace companies and the UK’s biggest employer of skilled engineers. I am responsible for our activity to promote engineering in schools, as well as the recruitment and development of apprentices and graduates. I am also involved in our Skills 2020 Strategy, which is part of our commitment to ensuring we have the right skills to remain competitive and operate successfully in the UK over the next decade.
Sheila Flavell: We are a leading provider of IT Services for over 200 blue-chip clients worldwide. We are also one the UK’s top graduate recruitment companies. This year we are doubling our intake and employing 500 graduates.
Paul Jackson: Engineering UK works to improve the perception of engineers and Engineering. I lead the team here, working with partners across the business, public and third sectors to promote engineering and the role of engineers to the UK’s future workforce. We do this via a focus on core programmes. One of these is ‘The Big Bang: UK Young Scientists and Engineers Fair’, which is the biggest celebration of Science and Engineering for young people in the UK.
Keith Parker: The Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) is the trade association and representative voice of Britain’s civil nuclear industry. It represents over 220 companies. NIA supports a balanced low-carbon energy future for the UK including renewables, clean coal and gas – with nuclear at its low-carbon centre.
Is now a good time for graduates to join the engineering and technology sectors?
Adrian Harrison: It certainly is. Our sector is thriving and looking to increase involvement in many key projects across the world. This requires investment in facilities, equipment and people. In the near future we will need a good mix of skills; machine operators, inspectors, planners, designers, testers, financiers, marketeers, purchasers, managers and executives, to name just a few. Engineering and Manufacturing doesn’t just involve people who ‘make’ things. There are many supportive roles such as designers, planners, inspectors and also people in Human Resources, Finance, Quality – our companies have all these roles.
Richard Hamer: The financial crisis was a real wake-up call to the UK, and what followed was genuine recognition that we must do more to invest in, promote and elevate engineering as a sector. The Coalition Government has spoken regularly of a need to shift the balance of the UK economy away from its reliance on the financial industry and go back to making things. There’s certainly a perceptible buzz around the engineering sector at the moment, and a sense that engineering and technology are once again on the agenda, but government and industry must act quickly to inspire the next generation of engineers.
Sheila Flavell: Fantastic, never been better. We have opportunities coming out of our ears for IT enthusiasts. Last year we gained 20 new clients, so demand for our graduates is far outstripping supply.
Paul Jackson : Definitely. If the UK is to keep up with its international competitors, it will need to recruit and retain graduates in a range of engineering and technology fields. Our research shows that the UK will need to recruit over 200,000 new graduates in to manufacturing by 2017.
Keith Parker: Now is an excellent time for graduates to join the nuclear industry. We have a strong decommissioning and environmental remediation sector with a range of exciting and challenging careers, as well as a strong generation sector – providing around 16% of UK electricity. And on top of all this, there are the exciting challenges and prospects of new build [to existing nuclear power station sites]. These activities need a wealth of skilled new workers, many of whom will need a strong understanding of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) topics.
How do you expect your industry to change over the next two years?
Adrian Harrison: I think in our sector, companies will work more closely with each other on larger projects around the world. For example, today design, development, manufacture, testing and delivery are all managed by separate companies which sometimes provide these services to the same customer. In the future we hope to be able to offer our customers a ‘one stop shop’ service where this support is offered under one banner (such as the Isle of Man Aerospace Cluster – now in its third year) even though behind the scenes the separate companies are involved.
Richard Hamer: Like most other businesses BAE Systems is likely to be affected by government spending cuts and belt-tightening. As a business, the nature of what we do is also likely to undergo a shift in coming years. As various programmes come into maturity our business will increasingly move from manufacturing to support and service.
Sheila Flavell: Who knows? I am expecting 2011 to be hectic and that is as far as I can see. We have received 16,000 applicants so far this year for our Academy programme so the sky is the limit.
Paul Jac kson: With the constant and pressing need to develop green and low carbon technologies to try and mitigate the effects of climate change, I think the industry could look quite different two years from now. It is a very exciting time to be an engineer and make a difference.
Keith Parker: The effects of new build will really start to kick in. The aim is to have the first plant operational by 2018, and the developers and the supply chain are already gearing up and recruiting to take advantage of the opportunities here. But those opportunities are global, and as the years move on, the economic and workforce possibilities will continue to develop into realities, providing a large number of crucial new jobs here and overseas.
What’s the main piece of advice you would give graduates entering this industry?
Adrian Harrison: It’s hard work, both in study and then during employment, but it is also varied, stimulating and challenging. After all, when something comes together, works and helps society in a positive way, then that is very rewarding. Get some good grades in your studies, be prepared to be flexible and a hard worker, think and act positively, question everything (in a positive way) and you’ll get the benefits of a career in Engineering or Manufacturing.
Richard Hamer: I think the key to being successful is to do something you enjoy. It’s tempting to follow the money early on in a career, but I’d encourage graduates in this industry to take a more long-term view In my experience happiness and success go hand in hand. Sheila Flavell: Join FDM to gain the education and training that will secure you a fantastic future in the IT industry.
Paul Jackson: ‘Softer’ skills such as communication, networking and relationship building shouldn’t be overlooked and are just as important as your technical ability. Engineers need and use these skills every day within their working lives.
Keith Parker: I’d tell them that, despite what people may think, the nuclear industry is not only staffed by people of my generation! This is a stimulating and vibrant industry with a thriving young generation network. Nuclear provides a serious, rewarding, challenging and long-term career – and the industry is also an exciting place to be. Given the chance, would you do it all again?
Adrian Harrison: Oh yes! 23 years since graduating myself I have been involved with many things that I really enjoy, seen many countries and cultures, dealt with some really fantastic people, come up against some soul-destroying problems, and helped develop solutions that blow them away. Yet even now I still learn something new each day, either from the sector on our island, in the UK, via the internet or by just reading something in an engineering magazine. It’s good to be involved in a sector and industry that helps create the future and how we live, travel, communicate and exist. How many careers can say that!
Richard Hamer: I feel very fortunate to have worked with young people, experiencing the enthusiasm they have and helping to channel that into a passion for engineering. It’s particularly rewarding for me to see how graduates and apprentices develop and succeed at BAE Systems.
Sheila Flavell: I am still doing it and will continue to do so.
Paul Jac kson: Of course! I loved my time as an engineer and am now I am enjoying helping to inspire the next generation in this industry.
Keith Parker: Yes, nuclear is a particularly high-profile industry with a bright future. The industry is entering a crucial phase and offers a range of exciting and challenging careers.