ADS New Professionals Forum Annual Conference: A Summary

On 25th November 2021, the New Professionals Forum (NPF) Annual Conference was successfully held, in a virtual manner to accommodate all interested. Over 25 companies were represented by people excited to hear about the future of sustainability in space, how the space sector supports the meeting of vital sustainability goals, and what that could mean for us back here on Earth. Another key focus of the event was sustainability of the workforce, with a particular emphasis on the retention of professionals in the space sector.

 

Opening Remarks

The chair of the NPF, Matt Hogsden (MBDA), and Bhavin Vyas (Head of Space, ADS) opened the event, welcoming everyone and giving a brief overview of the NPF before passing over to George Freeman MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Science, Research, and Innovation). His talk on addressing sustainable space post-COP26 was a highlight of the day and showed the government’s continual efforts to increase the nation’s high-skilled workforce and engage younger people into STEM and space.

 

Can We Assure Sustainability?

Kathie Bowden (UK Space Agency) followed up next with an overview of the current space workforce and the issues surrounding ensuring that the workforce in the space sector grows at a sustainable rate, with the development of key skills. The key message was for greater collaboration with government, academia, and industry across sectors to better train and develop the early career employees and make these great strides visible to potential recruits.

 

Innovations in Space

One of the next segments of the day focused on the innovations in space technology that actively contribute towards the understanding of climate change. The talks are summarised below:

  • Nick Shave (Chair of UKspace) on collaborative working to further develop satellite applications and the benefits of having a UK space launch capability. Nick also discussed key climate space projects that the UK is currently involved in, as well as the significant role of UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and the UN in influencing international sustainable space policy.
  • Derek Harris (Skyrora, Ecosene) on how their 3-stage satellite launch vehicles get hardware into space in a more sustainable manner. There is also a prioritisation on developing/using eco-fuel and space debris removal to further reduce their footprint.
  • Marcus Ambler and Joshua Brown (borwell) on machine learning and AI solutions, and the major significance these technologies will have for the space sector and beyond.
  • Louise Mercy (Telespazio) on a prototype digital twin Earth system that provides a high precision digital model of the Earth to monitor and forecast natural and human activity on the planet.
  • Ben Stern (Surrey Satellite Technologies Ltd) on the small satellite revolution and the roles they can play in climate observation.

 

Skills Panel – Retention of Young Professionals in the Space Sector

There was also the opportunity to hear the thoughts of industry leaders on the issues surrounding retention and skills development of young professionals within the space sector, with an NPF-researched presentation of potential solutions opening the floor to discussion.

The panellists were: Kathie Bowden (UK Space Agency), Gp Capt Edd Watkin (UK Space Command), Dr Nigel Bannister (University of Leicester), Dr Heidi Thiemman (Space Skills Alliance, Truro & Penwith College), Marcus Ambler (borwell), Chiedza Lunga (MBDA, ADS Group), and Daniel Hingston (MBDA).

 

Young Professionals’ First-hand Experiences of the Space Sector

The NPF had also invited two new professionals in the space sector to relate their experiences on their unique career journeys and thoughts on the accessibility of the sector.

  • Myles Johnson (Lockheed Martin), a systems engineer who started a small business named Astroverse that surveys the UK space industry to provide a comprehensive list of space-specific events and opportunities for subscribers to increase their network and learn new skills.
  • Scott Hunter (Serco), a spacecraft controller whose intense day-to-day work life was inspiring to hear about and gave some strong take-aways. He explained how he was taught all the sector-specific fundamentals over a 9-month training period, highlighting the need for the sector to train new professionals in specialist knowledge to better attract and retain skilled workers.

 

Closing

The event was brought to a close by outgoing NPF chair, Matt Hogsden, and the incoming chair, Daniel Hingston, briefing the audience on ADS and the work that NPF will continue to do into the New Year. The talk gave everyone attending the understanding of opportunities within the NPF committee and wider working groups for new professionals motivated to help make a difference in their industry. The audience, through polls and questions, gave the NPF organising committee some helpful guidance on key areas of interest to plan the NPF’s 2022 activities.

It was a brilliant event, and we look forward to seeing industry/government colleagues and ADS members again soon. Planning for next year’s conference will begin soon, so watch this space!

 

The New Professionals Forum

The New Professionals Forum is a group available to all ADS members aiming to promote networking and development for professionals new to the aerospace, defence, security, and space sectors. Contact Chiedza.Lunga@adsgroup.org.uk to find out more.