Driving industry collaboration to close the skills gap: Kathy Jenkins addresses the Royal Aeronautical Society

Driving industry collaboration to close the skills gap:  Kathy Jenkins addresses the Royal Aeronautical Society

Marshall CEO Kathy Jenkins delivered the Royal Aeronautical Society’s annual Sir Arthur Marshall Lecture on 21 February, sharing a powerful message on the critical need for industry collaboration to address the growing skills shortage in aerospace and aviation.

Standing on the site where David Gregory Marshall opened the company’s first car garage in 1909 (now part of Jesus College, Cambridge), Jenkins began by paying tribute to Marshall's deep-rooted history and dedication to skills development. Looking back to the hiring of the company's first apprentice mechanic in 1920, she highlighted Marshall's remarkable journey of training over 21,000 apprentices over the ensuing 104 years.

Acknowledging that the industry must do more to target those who may not be on the path to employment, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, Jenkins highlighted the need to “change the narrative, engage the people who are influencing career choices, and most importantly make careers in our sector accessible to young people from all backgrounds and all levels of educational attainment.”

In light of the urgent skills gap facing aerospace and aviation, Jenkins explained how Marshall, as an independent mid-tier business, has uniquely managed to call together leaders from across the industry to take collective action around fast-tracking more young people into the industry.

Recalling the inaugural Marshall Skills Summits held in 2023, Jenkins shared that all attendees – including representatives from BAE, Boeing, Airbus, British Airways, MBDA, GKN and Bombardier as well as industry bodies and academia – agreed that the skills gap is a crisis that cannot be resolved by employers continuing to act alone.

“We are all spending a fair amount of time, effort and money on outreach initiatives, often fishing in the same pond and, candidly, confusing the education system with our different interventions,” said Jenkins.

“Let’s face it, the numbers tell us it’s just not working.”

In closing, Jenkins urged every aerospace professional to engage together in closing the skills gap. She stressed the importance of reaching the forgotten generation, offering alternatives to traditional career paths, and ensuring the vibrancy of the aerospace industry for generations to come.