Back To The Future For Aerospace Leader Airframe Designs

When it comes to bridging the skills gaps, aerospace leader Airframe Designs has created its own version of the famous Back to the Future movie.

By coaxing back former experienced, senior engineers from retirement, the company specialising in design, analysis, certification and manufacturing has created its very own mentoring and upskilling programme.

From its offices adjacent to Blackpool Airport, Airframe Designs is turning the skills gap on its head by bringing back some of the very best engineers in the business from retirement to take on a new challenge – and also help to nurture young talent at the same time.

Design consultant Dean Kelly, senior concept design engineer Andrew White and senior design engineer Mark Dugdale are all former employees working on prestigious projects for BAE Systems who have discovered a new lease of life.

Dean, 62, who lives in nearby Lytham St Annes, said: “I benefitted from working with some of the best engineers myself at BAE Systems. Now I want to give something back and I find it very satisfying. You have to feed and water young talent.

“Sometimes the youngsters find it frustrating that we have to consider what we’re doing so much before we can really start to work at pace but that is the nature of what we’re dealing with. It has to be right first time.

“I think it’s great that Airframe Designs has such a passion to develop young people in the right way. I was impressed by the operation when I came to see it and how the people at the company are so dedicated.

“A lot of organisations I know in the industry say young people have to sink or swim, but this isn’t like that. We work with them closely and talk them through the tasks. We have lots of processes but there are also other activities that make up the glue of any major project and make the difference.”

Dean, Andrew and Mark are helping to mentor and train three apprentices from Airframe Designs who also attend college one day per week to learn further technical skills as part of their degree in engineering.

The trio, Louis Prescott, Bailey Black and James Hodgkiss are all enrolled on the Manufacturing Engineering Degree Apprenticeship at Blackpool and the Fylde College.

Andrew White, 65, who lives in Chorley, was working on the next generation Tempest fighter aircraft programme at BAE Systems before he retired only to return to work with Airframe Designs.
Now he is working on a range of projects with the youngsters including assessment of loads on multi-copter platforms.

“I create a model and then we work through a structural analysis and transfer the 3D data to examine the next steps. We also have regular meetings involving the apprentices. They benefit from that and looking at how we work through our tasks,” said Andrew.

“These young people simply soak up the information like a sponge. It’s all very rewarding and we’re making good progress as a team.”

Dean, who retired last September, started his career in 1977 at BAE Systems – then known as British Aerospace – before moving into consultancy working on major projects such as the F-35 fighter programme.

CEO of Airframe Designs Jerrod Hartley said: “We’re creating a powerful blend of experience and young talent to ensure we have the skills for now and the longer term to support our customers. We believe in nurturing young talent and we wanted to do something about it ourselves rather than rely on external bodies to do it for us.”

Website: Airframe Designs