STEM success at Shawbury

The Ascent team at RAF Shawbury has been working in partnership with the RAF and Airbus for some time, to help deliver STEM activities to local youngsters – such as 2022’s highly successful Santa Drops, where the Shawbury team visited more than a dozen schools.

But a bid to grow the Ascent ambassador team has now resulted in a raft of new recruits on board, increasing the ability of the business to take part in local events.

George Thompson, Qualified Helicopter Instructor based at Shawbury, has been spearheading Ascent’s STEM collaboration at the site.

“Six to eight people have been going through the process, beginning to work on STEM events,” explains George.

“The first group have now finished their two-to-three-week induction training and security checks and have become part of Shawbury STEM. These ambassadors are now giving something back to our military partners and our community.”

What is STEM?

So, what is STEM and why is Ascent involved?

Well, for Ascent it’s all about inspiring the next generation of aircrew. STEM ambassador activities are intended to positively influence attitudes to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is hoped this will in turn enhance young people’s attainment in STEM subjects and the likelihood of them pursuing STEM careers and/or research in the future.

STEM promotion is particularly important for females. Women currently make up just 24% of the STEM workforce in the UK, with hopes that this will rise to 29% by 2030. While this is a large upswing on previous generations, there is still a prevailing gender imbalance that we also see within our Armed Forces and Ascent’s own recruitment activities.

The Ascent STEM team

Shaun Ellis is a newly recruited Ascent STEM ambassador, and while many recruits from the business are pilots, his day job is as a scheduler within the ops department.

Shaun has been at Shawbury for about 18 months, after studying aviation management at university. He lives in Liverpool and has a real passion for aviation, working with the aircrew of the future through the RAF Air Cadets, where he is Officer Commanding of the 90-Speke Squadron RAFAC.

Shaun’s first STEM ‘mission’ was as part of a visit to a primary school in Warrington. The helicopter landed in the school grounds, to the thrill of the youngsters – who were celebrating World Book Day – and who then had an opportunity to take a closer look at the helicopter and find out more.

Shaun was delighted at how engaged the youngsters were: “When you sit here and see helicopters every day, it becomes the norm,” he explains. “When you go somewhere else, to youngsters who may not have seen helicopters close up before, it is really quite special.

“There was a lot of screaming, shouting and waving, but there were also a lot of questions and the children had obviously been well briefed prior to our visit.”

Shaun is now looking forward to his next mission: “It’s important to give back. Through our STEM work we can help inspire the next generation to connect with what we do and want to do what we are doing,” he said.

Brian Braid, Operations Director at Ascent, heads up the working group that helps promotes community engagement within Ascent. He hopes that each of the business’s six sites and training hub, can become more involved with STEM.

“This initiative is a great example of how the business is trying to give back to our local communities and to inspire future aviators. Providing this kind of access to those who may otherwise not get such an opportunity, is just one way Ascent is trying to make a difference in the community!” he said.