How young women in STEM can help deliver a carbon-free future

Bethany Hall, member of the WISE Young Professional’s Board and Technical Assistant to Project Director, FlyZero, talks about how her work is making aerospace more sustainable.

Bethany Hall

Bethany is an electrical engineer who joined Rolls-Royce as an engineering graduate and was seconded to the government-funded Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) FlyZero project in March 2021. She is technical assistant to the Project Director, Chris Gear. Bethany is also a member of the WISE Young Professionals’ Board where she seeks to bring more authentic inclusion into STEM industries and aims to entice more people into careers in engineering promoting the real impact that ‘sustainable STEM’ careers can have on the planet!   

FlyZero Midsize Concept Aircraft © ATI

Fresh perspectives for a green future

“Getting out of bed every morning knowing I’m working to make aircraft sustainable – so that someday, I can enjoy my love for travelling without polluting the planet – is certainly the best job I’ve had so far. FlyZero has allowed me to broaden my horizons far beyond my own speciality of electrical engineering. It has helped me understand the technology, commercial, industrialisation and sustainability challenges faced by the aerospace sector when it comes to decarbonisation. I am passionate about spreading the word about jobs in sustainable STEM because I believe anyone who likes problem solving and wants to protect our planet, should be able to work in engineering!”

FlyZero is a research project that runs until March this year. It aims to realise zero-carbon emission commercial aviation by the end of the decade. The project is being led by the Aerospace Technology Institute and backed by the UK government. This intensive 12-month strategic research programme has brought experts together from across the UK to conduct a detailed and holistic study of the design challenges, manufacturing demands, operational requirements and market opportunity of potential zero-carbon emission aircraft concepts.

FlyZero’s findings will shape the future of global aviation, ensuring the UK will stand at the forefront of sustainable flight in design, manufacture, technology, and skills for years to come. The most critical finding to date has been that the project identified green liquid hydrogen as the zero-carbon emission fuel with the greatest potential to power commercial flight – up to a midsize aircraft (enough for a trip from London to Sydney with only one stop!) [1].

In order to avoid being ‘locked out’ of the zero-carbon aerospace sector, the UK must act now to accelerate technology development, form liquid hydrogen fuel supply and airport infrastructure, and equip the aerospace workforce with the skills needed to deliver these new, green technologies.

Creating a workforce with new aerospace sector skills

FlyZero has formed a high-level view of the skills requirements for a future workforce developing and manufacturing liquid hydrogen aircraft technologies. To do this, we looked at the skills needed in technology areas such as propulsion (gas turbine, electrical and fuel cell), aircraft systems and aircraft structures, along with important cross-cutting skills such as sustainability, automation, digital, safety and certification.

Apprentices are an essential part of the aerospace workforce as they bring new talent and fresh perspectives to the problems being faced while they learn from more experienced colleagues. Adapting the learning content for apprentices to include skills aligned to green technologies will help embed sustainability within the core aerospace community.

In the UK, a Green Jobs Taskforce has been set up to support the creation of up to 250,00 green jobs by 2030 [2]. Alongside this, the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education has set up a Green Apprenticeships Advisory Panel to enhance offerings to meet the needs of employers within the transition to net zero [3]. The workforce skills identified by FlyZero will form a key part of the evolution of aerospace-related apprenticeship offerings, introducing new training courses and modules to support the delivery of zero-carbon emission, liquid hydrogen-powered aircraft.

Not only do we need sustainable aircraft topics embedded into apprenticeships, but it is important that engineering organisations continuously support STEM outreach programmes to inspire students from primary school age and up to consider careers in aerospace. Sustainability is a topic close to the hearts of many young people – according to the Children’s People and Nature survey in 2021 [4], over 80% of 8- to 15-year-olds want to do more to help the environment. The aerospace community should use the transition towards greener technology to inspire the next generation into aerospace careers, bringing topics such as hydrogen and electric aircraft into schools through STEM outreach programmes.

I recommend that any apprentice, or person considering an apprenticeship should seek out opportunities for upskilling in green technology areas. These skills are not only important in sustainable aircraft development but will also mean you can work across multiple sectors, enabling you to have a successful career whilst making a positive impact to the planet!

The FlyZero findings, including the full ‘Workforce to Deliver Liquid Hydrogen Aircraft’ report, will be published in March 2022 at ati.org.uk.

For apprenticeship and wider career offerings to get involved in zero-carbon aircraft development, please visit the careers pages of the FlyZero contributing companies:

Airbus, Belcan, Capgemini, easyJet, Eaton, GE Aviation, GKN Aerospace, High Value Manufacturing Catapult (MTC), Mott MacDonald, NATS, Reaction Engines, Rolls-Royce, Spirit AeroSystems.

[1] ATI FlyZero, “Realising Zero-Carbon Emisson Commerical Flight: Primary Energy Source Comparison and Selection,” September 2021. [Online]. Available: https://www.ati.org.uk/resources/publications/

[2] UK Government – Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, “The ten point plan for a green industrial revolution,” 2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-ten-point-plan-for-a-green-industrial-revolution

[3] “Green Apprenticeships Advisory Panel,” 2022. [Online]. Available: https://www.instituteforapprenticeships.org/about/how-we-do-it/green-apprenticeship-advisory-panel/ [4] “The Children’s People and Nature Survey for England: Summer Holidays 2021,” Official Statistics – Crown Copyright, [Online]. Available: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/the-childrens-people-and-nature-survey-for-england-summer-holidays-2021-official-statistics/the-childrens-people-and-nature-survey-for-england-summer-holidays-2021-official-statistics

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