Make it in Great Britain Industry Champion – Colin Smith CBE

Colin Smith CBE - Rolls-Royce

Colin Smith CBE

Director, Engineering and Technology, Rolls-Royce

Colin Smith joined Rolls-Royce as an undergraduate apprentice and has held a number of senior positions with the group before being appointed Director – Engineering & Technology, and joining the Rolls-Royce main board in 2005.

Colin is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, The Royal Aeronautical Society and The Institution of Mechanical Engineers and was a Royal Academy Silver Medal winner in 2002.

He has been awarded honorary doctorates by the University of Strathclyde, the University of Loughborough and the University of Southampton.

How has your company engaged with young people and the community to improve the image of manufacturing?

At Rolls-Royce we have always been very proactive in engaging with young people and the community, in order to highlight the great career opportunities that science and engineering can provide. For example, our Science Prize, which is now in its eighth year, recognises and rewards excellent science teaching and so far has given £800,000 in prize money.

Hundreds of our employees are STEM ambassadors and we regularly host factory tours, activities and events with schools to show pupils how exciting engineering can be. A number of our employees are also School Governors and our Graduate and Apprentice programmes incorporate projects promoting science and engineering in local schools and the community.

What have you personally done to improve youth engagement with manufacturing?

I have been a School Governor for many years and I have given a number of lectures to students highlighting the opportunities in engineering. I also participate in projects organised by Rolls-Royce and other professional institutes to engage with schools. These projects include the annual Big Bang Fair and the exciting BLOODHOUND Project, which aims to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics to young people, by demonstrating how they can be harnessed to achieve the seemingly impossible – setting a 1,000 mph land speed record.

What more needs to be done?

The future critically depends on the engineers, scientists and mathematicians who will discover how to produce enough low carbon energy to power the world; develop pharmaceuticals that can cure the diseases that current medicines cannot; and build planes that travel non-stop to the furthest corners of the world using less fuel and travelling far more quietly than any aircraft today.

It is important that we explain to young people the role they can play and the opportunities that a career addressing these challenges can provide. However, it is not just down to industry to tell that story.

Companies like Jaguar Land Rover, JCB and BAE Systems do a great job, but Government, the media and crucially schools, have a major role to play.