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Tomorrow’s Engineers Week – On a mission to challenge perceptions of careers in STEM

If someone told me when I was at school that I would grow up to have a job working in space, I would have been over the moon (no pun intended).

I always thought a career in STEM required strong maths skills or good science grades – but luckily for me, that isn’t the case. And I’m on a mission to inspire others to explore the many different routes that can be taken into career in STEM.

So, how did I land my dream job designing power stations in space? I will be revealing all in a live broadcast for schools during Tomorrow’s Engineers Week (6 to 10 November).

Mike Hontoir

It’s an annual celebration of engineering and technology careers designed to inspire the next generation. But let me explain how I got here and how I think more students should be encouraged to think of space – and more broadly engineering – as a career path.

My journey has been the epitome of a ‘squiggly career’. But since deferring my undergraduate degree in computer programming, I now know that I was right to change direction. Doing something that excites and inspires me every day is so important. 

I spent a brilliant 11 years working as a marine engineer on auxiliary ships that support the Royal Navy. I learnt that a marine engineer can absolutely become a tritium development engineer then a fusion energy engineer and now a space energy development engineer.

In my current role, I have discovered that space is as exciting as it promises to be. After all, how many people do you bump into in your local supermarket who can say that their actual job is designing a solar power station that sits in space? 

I identify possible solutions. I analyse the merits of the said solutions. I then get to calculate, design and model components for our spacecraft. These problem-solving and analytical thinking skills are crucial in driving innovation across the industry. But curiosity and creativity are just as important.

I love my job and feel passionately that many, many more young people should be encouraged to think about a career in engineering. Where do you start? Well, ask your class these questions:

Are you a curious creative who has only dreamt of a career linked to space?

Love going to gigs? Have you thought about pursuing a career in music – perhaps as a live sound engineer? 

Are you someone who loves to problem solve?

Do you want to be part of a global team delivering an era-defining new form of energy?

Do you want to be involved in accelerating innovation in areas such as autonomous space robotics, energy transfer as well as in-space assembly and manufacturing?

Reaching net zero is the greatest single global endeavour undertaken. Our survival as a species depends on it. It requires a stepped change in our behaviour on so many fronts, including how and where we generate and consume energy. We know how passionate young people are about climate change and sustainability. Engineers across the world are and will continue to play a huge role in finding solutions to complex, global problems. I am proud to be playing a tiny part in that seismic goal – and you could too.  

So, what can you do to support your students considering a career in engineering? Join the Tomorrow’s Engineers Week 2023 live broadcast on 6 November where I will be discussing my pathway into engineering, alongside other inspiring engineers and technicians across many different and we hope, surprising industries. A recording will also be available shortly afterwards on the Tomorrow’s Engineers website.

And remember, the week is packed with a whole host of other interactitve activities to excite and inspire students.

By Mike HontoirSpace Energy Development Engineer, Space Solar

To find out more, visit www.teweek.org.uk

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