These are tough times for the UK defence manufacturing industry as budgets tighten and the industry struggles to bridge significant skills gaps. But in the face of this challenge the sector is fostering some of the brightest young engineering talent. To showcase this, the aerospace, defence and security trade body ADS launched its Young Professionals in Defence Forum in December 2011 – Richard Stewart is a founding member.
TM: What is your role and what are the main responsibilities?
RS: I am an electronic design engineer working on platforms for defence systems. I am involved in various stages of the project lifecycle, including concept design, schematic capture, testing and through life support of in-service equipment.
TM: What are the key skills you use?
RS: Although technical skills are the core of my work, softer skills like communication, presentation and leadership skills are absolutely vital. Without these it would be impossible to achieve the performance we need.
TM: What personal characteristics help you in your role?
RS: I am very clear, concise and to the point when in meetings. I can move onto new projects and come up to speed very quickly. I like to take a realistic view on tasks and try to think of the bigger picture rather than focus on the smaller, trivial things.
TM: What are the most rewarding parts of your job?
RS: Being able to see the finished product in use by customers. I was fortunate enough to be the electronics support engineer on a recent user trial of a new system. It was great seeing how enthusiastic the soldiers where about the new equipment, and how useful it will be to them.
TM: What do you consider to be your biggest personal success in your career so far?
RS: Recently I was selected to be a founding member of the Aerospace Defence Security (ADS) Young Professionals in Defence Forum. As there is only one member per company, I feel a great sense of achievement in being selected.
TM: Why was this significant?
RS: It is vital that the UK defence industry maintains and indeed improves its skill base. Being selected to participate in a forum where I (and other young people) can network and express both our interests and concerns to senior politicians and industry members is a great opportunity.
TM: What first attracted you to a career in manufacturing?
RS: I have always had an interest in how things work. While studying Design & Technology at school, I entered various competitions including ‘Audi young designer of the year’, and ‘Young engineers of Britain’. The process of developing concepts and then making them a reality; coupled with getting recognition at competitions showed me that it could be a hugely exciting and rewarding career.
TM: What will be your next career move?
RS: I am aiming to build on the experiences I currently have and am currently working towards becoming a Chartered Engineer.
TM: Do you have a grand career ambition?
RS: I have a keen interest in technology strategy and the use of modular systems. I would like to become more involved in this area in years to come.
TM: How do you think best to get more young people interested in manufacturing?
RS: It is vital that children are introduced to manufacturing at an early age to help stimulate their minds. GCSE and A Level students choosing their careers need to have confidence that there is going to be challenging, rewarding work available for them in the UK for many years to come.
CV in brief
- Age: 26
- Employment: Thales UK’s land defence business August 09 – present
- Education: Banbridge Academy, BEng Electronic & Software Engineering Queens University Belfast, IET Power Academy
- Interests: mountain biking and hockey