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Team effort

26 March 2013
Jet engine.

As well as hosting its own events, the IET works closely with other professional organisations putting together informative events for like-minded individuals, reports Keri Allan.

One success story is that of the Annual Northern Aerospace Forum (ANAF), which in 2012 held its seventh gathering. Members of the IET work closely with a number of groups on the organisation of this event. These are the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS), the Institution of Mechanical Engineering (IMechE) and the North West Aerospace Alliance (NWAA), a flagship organisation representing some 750 member companies and stakeholders involved in the North West England's aerospace cluster.

“The event was originally started by the RAeS and IMechE,” says Mike Bell, secretary of the IET Lancashire and Cumbria Network. “The IET’s involvement began in the forum’s fourth year, when the Aerospace TPN began, of which I was chair.

“[Currently] it is run by members from the three institutions and a representative from the NWAA who meet on a regular basis. We work as part of that team, that both plan and run the event.”

Inter-institutions

During these meetings the groups get together to discuss who they feel would be suitable speakers and then contact them, either by telephone or email, to ask if they would be willing to get involved. Each year some of these contacts come via the IET Aerospace Network.

This year’s event had eight speakers including James Baker, managing director of BAE Systems Advanced Technology Sector, Dr Gareth Williams, vice president, Research and Technology, Airbus SAS and Professor Costas Soutis, director of the University of Manchester’s Aerospace Research Institute.

Cross promotion

All the organisations also use their resources and contacts to promote the event. “We promote the events via our websites, newsletters and magazines, as well as by word of mouth from past attendees,” Mike highlights.

They also work closely to overcome problems and try to make the event more successful with every passing year. “Problems include attendee numbers, and trying to make sure the event doesn’t make a loss,” notes Mike. “Sometimes [we also have to work closely] to find a replacement speaker if a speaker discovers they cannot attend soon before the event.”

2012’s ANAF

The event itself ran from 2-6pm with speakers and a Q&A forum where the lecture subjects as well as general discussions were covered. This was followed by a networking session and then dinner.

The theme of this year’s event was Engineering – the future. Speakers talked about technology and technology exploitation, and how it has long been the key to sustaining the aerospace industry in the north of the UK and will become even more important in the future. Across the military and commercial sectors there are significant forces at work, which need to be recognised and addressed if that success is to continue, they highlighted.

Discussing important issues

After the speakers had finished a panel discussion was held, where they discussed issues including skills shortages, the prospect of work moving to other countries, the opportunities available to new graduates, the need to make engineering look more exciting and how industry can work closer with academia.

The discussion closed with a comment by Alan Matthews, chairman of the ANAF, on a prominent recurring issue: the need to absorb young people into engineering and the aerospace industry. This has arisen often in the previous fora, becoming a significant debate topic in the inaugural forum and dominating the third forum, of 2008, whose theme was preserving the engineering capability for the future of the aerospace industry in the north of England. This year, the subject constituted about three-quarters of the forum discussion.

Success!

With attendance figures of over 100, all those involved were very happy with how the event went. Mike was one of many who received thanks from attendees for an interesting day and the multi-institution team has already begun to make plans for the next forum, set to take place this October.

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