The Proud Factor

A recent press visit to British Airways Engineering near Heathrow airport highlighted two things. First and foremost, we are in good hands. Despite the surprising battering the aircraft receive they are – of course - immensely safe and extremely well looked after.

More thought provoking, however, was how proud and passionate the engineers and staff were about what they do and who they represent. British Airways is a world renowned brand. Many of its maintenance staff have been there since leaving school and are experts; proud of what they have achieved while continuing to look forward.

However, British Airways is perhaps the exception and not the rule when it comes to the modern engineering industry. While it survived some pretty tough times, many of the UK's large industries have fallen by the wayside.

British Airways comes from an era where it was not unusual to have a job for life. Many of the current workforce aged 45 or over started as apprentices, worked up through the company, and are now passing on know-how to the next generation.

Looking across industry generally in 2013 this is not the case. Even British Airways has concerns about hanging on to younger engineers. Today's school leavers are multi-taskers, ambitious and self aware, but this also means they can be less loyal, more fleeting with less expertise. We are told the next generation are 'generalists' that are predicted to change careers, not just positions, every ten or so years.

The problem with this comes back to my original observation at BA. We want engineers to be proud and have a passion not just for the sector at large, but for the organisations they work for and represent. We need to encourage the next generation of engineers to not see an employer as a means to get money, success or career progression, but as something they can, and should be, proud to work for.

I should also add, this is by no means a slight at the next generation. Employers need to show its younger members of staff that they are valued, and not just cheap labour. Industry needs to incentivise and offer training, progression and mentoring.

If the UK is to have its engineering and manufacturing renaissance, it must keep hold of - and nurture - its talent. The so called 'proud factor' should not be understated, and industry needs to make sure it is passed on.

Justin Cunningham

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