Written by Matt Hogsden, Industry Secondee

More than one hundred young professionals came together on Friday 24 April in an exciting virtual networking event to discuss how the aerospace and defence industries are responding to COVID-19. 

We’ve all been a little remote recently but with modern technology, we thought there’s no reason not to try something different. The Young Professionals in Defence network, with a committee representing a range of different networks, decided to trial their first virtual networking event with speakers from across defence and attendees from all over the country. 

The afternoon started strongly with a presentation on how industry has come together in the VentilatorChallengeUK Consortium (VCUK). Paul Perera (GKN Aerospace), who is leading the consortia, emphasised how embracing digital technology has allowed the rapid and agile development needed in this challenge, giving examples such as their use of Microsoft HoloLens for training, or AI in supply chain inspection.  

VCUK is a great example of using different companies’ strengths to achieve something remarkable, challenging both primes and SMEs to take collective responsibility to be agile, reactive and digitally enabled. Stu Olden (Williams Advanced Engineering) showed how they have brought skills they’ve learn from motorsport to the challenge – innovation, agility, and delivery. Just as these are needed to win races, they are needed now to support the COVID-19 response. 

Grant Morley (Strategic Command, MoD) looked at how the world is adapting to the new ways of working. He discussed some of the challenges the MoD had faced, such as the need for laptops and infrastructure to allow remote working on classified data. He shared his own experience of working from home, pointing out how tiring a day of video meetings can be, but also how it brings advantages such as home comforts. 

Finally, Mikaela Green (Babcock) discussed how they are adapting the delivery of critical training to the Armed Forces. Sometimes simple solutions are the best, such as interactive pictures of vehicle controls for trainee drivers. On the other hand, Adaptive Learning is a novel approach using data analytics to customise the delivery of online training, improving an individual’s quality of learning by combining both their answer to the question and how confident they are in answering it. 

The event ended with networking in smaller breakout rooms, with the rooms mixing up every 5 minutes or so. Overall, each person met around 20 fellow new professionals, sharing experiences and discussing the talks, including how we can foster team spirit whilst working from home. This worked very well and was a fantastic chance to meet peers and strengthen networks, even while geographically separated. 

Overall, this was a fantastic event, inspiring new professionals to respond to the current challenges our country faces. A big thank you to the Young Professionals in Defence, and our partner networks who support it: AFCAE, JIG-V (Team Defence Information), RAeS YPN, and RUSI. Make sure to follow us on LinkedIn, and stay tuned to hear about future events!