From education to employment

Launching a career in the space industry through apprenticeships

Debbie Mavis

With National Apprenticeship Week in full swing, Debbie Mavis, Avanti Communications, discusses non-traditional routes into STEM industries, and how Avanti’s apprenticeship programme is helping young individuals launch a career in space.

University doesn’t have to be the status quo

Coming from a non-university background, I did not have a typical route into business. I first entered the workplace with a training contract at BT, then after the birth of my first child, I returned back to work in a temp role at Vodafone. After 12 years, I had worked my way up to a very senior HR position at Vodafone, before joining Avanti as Group HR Director in 2018. As such, I understand the benefits that come with making a salary early on in life, and what you can accomplish when you begin your career straight out of school. 

Nowadays, many are sold on the narrative that going to university is the only viable route into the workplace, especially within STEM careers. I fundamentally disagree with this. I feel that schools should promote every option available to young individuals and allow them freedom of choice when kick-starting  their career, with one of these being apprenticeships.

From practical hands-on learning, to developing your career early on in life, and gaining valuable experience without incurring student debt – apprenticeships are an extremely beneficial alternative to traditional routes into STEM.

Skills to kickstart your career in the space sector

Britain has a growing space sector, employing more than 47,000 people across the UK, and generating over £16.5bn each year. As UK companies awaken to the resilience and growth opportunities that this burgeoning industry brings, many are beginning to incorporate apprenticeship schemes, as a means of finding the brightest young minds within this new technological age.

When satellite companies stop limiting themselves to hiring individuals with degrees and PhDs, they will increase their employee diversity. This hiring model has repeatedly been found to boost innovation and financial results, which is a win-win for the individual, and company alike!

If you are looking to pursue an aerospace apprenticeship, you will need the following skills:

  1. Analytical skills. A large aspect of an aerospace engineer’s role is to analyse and evaluate the operations of a satellite or aircraft, and formulate solutions that improve performance.
  2. Maths skills. Having strong mathematical capabilities is key for roles where theories are applied on a daily basis. Aerospace engineers, for instance, will be expected to apply calculus and trigonometry, as well as physics and aerodynamics.
  3. Problem-solving. Troubleshooting design problems, and upgrading them to meet the new demands of an aircraft, is a top priority for those hoping to enter the industry.
  4. Writing skills. The ability to write papers and explain their design and solutions effectively is key for ensuring that the team can work together to find a solution.
  5. Creativity. Although an analytical mindset is an extremely useful tool, being able to think laterally will also make you a valued member of the team, so that you can withstand and adapt to technological advancement.

Empowering young individuals to pursue a career in the space industry through apprenticeships

At Avanti Communications, we want to empower young individuals to pursue a career in the space industry, no matter their background, education, or qualifications. We have been running our engineer apprenticeship scheme for 10 years, and have recently enrolled two new young apprentices at our Goonhilly Earth Station in Cornwall.

This two-year programme provides apprentices with hands-on experience in a team of some of the satellite industry’s most talented individuals. It teaches them skills that will allow them to progress into the workplace and enables them to acquire industry-wide qualifications.

In the first year of the programme, the apprentices rotate around the Satellite Operations Centre (SOC), Network Operation Centre (NOC) and Services Network Operations Centre (SNoC) teams, giving them a first-hand understanding of what it takes to become a space engineer.

In their second year, each apprentice is assigned a specific team based on their career and skill set. 80% of their time is spent doing on-the-job training, shadowing an engineer, and taking on actions that would be carried out by the wider team. The other 20% is at our associated college in Goonhilly, Truro & Penwith College. Here, each apprentice is given off-the-job training and time for studying.

We also want to make sure the programme is as holistic and beneficial as possible, so we always try to encourage our apprentices to attend external conferences, and empower them to research engineering topics of their choice beyond the programme’s syllabus.

We are very excited by the success of Avanti’s apprenticeship programme to date and are humbled by the positive feedback we receive from our apprentices year-on-year. We aim to build on this success by welcoming more apprentices to the college in the 2023/2024 academic year.

By Debbie Mavis, Group HR Director, Avanti Communications

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