At ADS’ pre-COP26 event held in October, there were many insightful panels focused on sustainability in the aerospace, defence and space sectors from the perspectives of seven global Chief Technology Officers through to young professionals identified as potential future leaders of their companies. The future leaders panel was thought-provoking and inspiring, and showcased their drive and determination to create a more sustainable world for future generations.
Following on from this, ADS’ current MBDA Secondee, Chiedza Lunga from the ADS’ New Professional Forum caught up with the future leaders. We’ve taken a deep dive into their thoughts on topics ranging from careers, skills and how to improve sustainability in their sectors.
Tell us about your journey to your current role?
My name is Euan Cameron and I joined Spirit AeroSystems as a Graduate Engineer in 2019 before advancing to a Stress Engineer in May 2021. I am also on a part-time secondment with the Aerospace Growth Partnership (AGP) as a Programme Manager, which I work in conjunction with my Stress Engineer role.
I graduated the University of Strathclyde in 2019 and this is where I was first exposed to the term ‘sustainability’. For my Master’s thesis I researched the recycling of glass fibre reinforced plastic (GFRP) composites and conducted practical experiments to assess the viability of obtaining glass fibres from a thermoset composite material. Since then, I have always had sustainability at the forefront of my mind whenever I complete any task, small or large.
What brought you to aerospace and what inspires you about the sector?
As cliché as it may seem, my parents were a huge influence in me pursuing a career in the aerospace industry – in particular my Dad, who was a Maintenance Engineer at Rolls-Royce. So, from an early age I always had a keen interest in aircraft and the physics behind their ability to fly. In my last year at high school, I made the decision to go to university to study Aero-Mechanical Engineering and I’m so happy that I did. I was inspired by the numerous opportunities that an aero-related Engineering degree could provide me.
To this day the aerospace sector continually inspires me – the ever-evolving challenges that we are faced with are, whilst somewhat daunting, very exciting! Having visibility of the sustainability challenges across our whole sector, from suppliers to OEM’s, can be overwhelming. However, with a collaborative and concentrated effort, it is a challenge that I have no doubts we will overcome.
How can new professionals contribute to improved sustainability now and in the future?
I believe that there are 3 key areas to this question: Educate, Encourage and Excite.
The first step for any young Engineer is to Educate themselves. They must be willing to learn and absorb as much information as possible around sustainability and its future in the aerospace industry. Having this knowledge is crucial before they can think about encouraging or inspiring others.
The next step is to Encourage others. By discussing sustainability issues within the workplace, this should provide a platform for others to at least familiarise themselves with the term ‘sustainability’ and understand how it affects their day-to-day activities.
The final step is to Excite or inspire the future generations of Engineers. As young professionals, I believe that it is our duty to share our experiences with students from schools and universities to excite and inspire them to be involved with the sustainability challenges that our sector is facing today.
How can aerospace attract and retain young people?
It is clear that work needs to be done by all parties to remove the stigma surrounding the aerospace sector that we are a high polluter so working to achieve NetZero is ‘almost impossible’. This false perception is extremely damaging to the industry and is one of the main reasons that young students refrain from pursuing this career path.
One of the main ways to overcome this is through increased STEM engagement: share the sustainability journey that we have been on so far and the challenges in our way to becoming ‘NetZero’. However, it is also important not to overlook the importance of parents and the influence they have on their children’s career choices. If we can better inform the parents of our sustainable and forward-thinking ideas, this will filter down into the younger generation.
What tips would you give to those who have just started their career and are looking to develop the skills needed in the future?
As a young Engineer myself, I can say with confidence that it is vital to stay up to date with what is going on within the sector; new technologies, new policies etc. This can be achieved via webinars, training events, conferences etc. A willingness to develop skills and broaden your knowledge will always be noticed by senior colleagues – which is never a bad thing!
I would also like to stress the importance of asking questions of your manager(s) to find out more about what your company is doing to be more aligned with the overall sector. This is a great way to learn more about what the company are doing at a top level and could potentially provide you with development opportunities out with your day-to-day work.
Thanks to Euan for his fascinating insight from an engineering perspective, which we really appreciated. See you again soon for our next blog.