Young Manufacturer of the Year: The yes man

The good times have been rolling for BAE Systems’ Sean Gallagher since he scooped TM’s Young Manufacturer of the Year Award in 2012. The secret to success, he states, is to say ‘yes’ to every opportunity and challenge.

Accolades have poured onto Mr Gallagher since the Manufacturer of the Year Awards 2012. The BedFlex product, invented by Gallagher and a cohort of other BAE Systems apprentices for treatment of recovering amputees and a major factor in gaining him the Young Manufacturer of the Year prize, has been awarded a gold BAE Systems Chairman’s award and named winner of the Make it in Great Britain competition to find the most innovative pre-market products coming into being in the UK.

Gallagher himself was also made BAE Systems’ UK Apprentice of the Year and recognised with a company award for best Apprentice in the Community in January 2013. “The highlight is probably the Chairman’s Award,” comments Gallagher – keen to emphasize the contribution of his BedFlex teammates. “There were over 3000 applications for the prize worldwide and only eight winners. Plus we got flown business class to Washington DC to receive the award!”

But it’s not all jet setting and celebrations. The day job needs attending to and Gallagher is now immersed in an important initiative to rationalise over 8000 BAE quality governance documents for aircraft manufacture. The impact of transitioning and reducing all of this documentation will reach into human resources, commercial, engineering and manufacturing functions. “It’s a lot of work but it’s extremely important for the business and, in the long term, it will mean less work and greater efficiency,” observes Gallagher.

It’s anyone’s game

Gallagher’s confidence, aged 22, in taking part in such strategic projects is striking and reflects the philosophy on talent management and commercial success which he expressed on winning TM’s award last year. “I think it is of the utmost importance to recognise young people in business. It is the people that breed the ideas in a business, not the hierarchy,” he said at the time. Now he explains, “That comment sprang off something I heard Steve Jobs said. He knew that good ideas can come from any level in a business. Hierarchy is there to harness and manage those ideas.”

Gallagher says keeping this in mind has been central to his own early career success. “It made me realise I have skills sets and capabilities that can make a difference if they are empowered by the hierarchy I work in – by the managers I work for.”

Luckily for Gallagher, BAE Systems offers just such flexibility when it comes to encouraging innovation. But this is not necessarily a hallmark of a large organisation, insists Gallagher, who is keen to promote quality apprenticeship training generally.

“I have a close friend that I studied engineering with at college who chose to join a very small fabrication and welding company in Blackpool – I believe he is the only apprentice they have,” says Gallagher. “He has exactly the same qualifications as me and he is progressing really well, being given a lot of responsibility and travelling the country. Any company can support an apprentice and get value from them as long as the management is good and the individual is motivated.”

So SME apprentices shouldn’t be put off entering awards like Young Manufacturer of the Year by publicly trumpeted winners form big firms? “Who you work for is really irrelevant during the judging process for TM’s award,” recalls Gallagher. “It’s all about showing you have made a difference to your environment and that you are passionate about your job.”

Any tips for this year’s hopefuls? “Say ‘yes’ to every opportunity or challenge. That is what differentiated me from some other great talent in the awards I have won,” says Gallagher.

The Manufacturer of the Year Awards.

The Manufacturer of the Year Awards 2013 at the ICC in Birmingham.
The Manufacturer of the Year Awards 2013 at the ICC in Birmingham.

Are you a high achieving young manufacturer? Is there a young employee in your organisation who deserves recognition? Let us know about the difference being made today by tomorrow’s leaders.

Enter TM’s annual awards scheme, The Manufacturer of the Year Awards.

The scheme celebrates the achievements of manufacturing businesses and individuals across 14 categories and crowns an overall victor for The Manufacturer of the Year Award title.

The awards are free to enter and the prize giving ceremony takes place on November 27 in Birmingham. 1,000 guests are expected to attend this event in 2014.

The deadline for entries to The Manufacturer of the Year Awards 2014 is July 31.

Find out more.