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ThrustWSH focuses on skills gap at SM&E Week 2024

03 June 2024

THE TEAM behind the world water speed record attempt, ThrustWSH, is attending Smart Manufacturing & Engineering (SM&E) Week 2024 this week in a bid to tackle the pressing recruitment challenges within the UK manufacturing and engineering sectors.

The team is launching a survey at the event, aimed at engineering and manufacturing businesses, to gather data that will inform and shape the project’s education programme, ensuring it addresses the skills gap and inspires the next generation of engineers and innovators to pursue careers in STEM based disciplines. 

The ThrustWSH project builds on the illustrious history of Richard Noble OBE’s record-breaking endeavours, including Thrust2’s 633 mph land speed record in 1983 and ThrustSSC’s first supersonic land speed record of 763 mph in 1997. The current focus is on conquering the water speed record, but the project is equally committed to education and inspiring future engineers. Through its open Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) policy, ThrustWSH shares live project data with schools, allowing students to engage with the engineering and physical performance aspects as the project progresses.

The team chose the World Water Speed Record for two reasons. It has a history of extreme danger which can be mitigated only by developing a new high technology design solution from first principles. This is ideal for education purposes. The record can be challenged in the UK on a Scottish Loch and has stood since 1978 (to the Spirit of Australia team at 317mph). All subsequent attempts have ended in failure.

Visitors to SM&E Week 2024 will have the opportunity to engage with members of the ThrustWSH team on stand D60 in Hall 4. They can learn more about the project's research programme and future plans, including the anticipated completion of the final ship design by the end of 2024 and the subsequent build and record attempt scheduled for 2025 and 2026 respectively. 

At SM&E Week, taking place at the NEC Birmingham on 5-6 June 2024, ThrustWSH will collaborate with The Manufacturer, Michael Page Recruitment, Bloodhound Education, Leeds University, and the University of Bradford to launch a survey aimed at identifying the recruitment challenges faced by UK manufacturers. The survey results will be analysed at the University of Bradford and are pivotal in developing a ThrustWSH education programme that not only addresses these challenges but also inspires young minds to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).

Richard Noble, director of Thrust Boat, emphasised the significance of the survey, stating, “The current generation, many educated by gaming, may represent the best recruitment opportunity the UK has ever had for its engineering and manufacturing sectors. We learned from the Bloodhound Project that record-breaking attempts have extraordinary learning potential. We know there are serious recruitment difficulties in the industry, and we want to help with a new education programme based on the incredibly difficult ThrustWSH project. But first, we all need to understand the current landscape, and this survey will help us do that.”

The UK manufacturing and engineering sectors face an urgent skills shortage, with fewer young people choosing careers in these fields. This has led to an ageing workforce and a significant recruitment and retention problem. The survey seeks to uncover the root causes of this issue, whether it be the poor industrial image, competition from other industries, or parental bias against STEM careers.

The survey is a collaborative effort involving key organisations from media, recruitment, and academia. Prof Neil W. Bressloff, Head of the School of Mechanical Engineering at Leeds University, remarked, “Universities play a major role in educating and inspiring future engineers. We hope to address the skills shortage and ensure the manufacturing sector remains robust.”

Chris Fairhead, chairman of Bloodhound Education, expressed similar sentiments, “ThrustWSH will generate excitement and provide a lasting interest in engineering, from primary school through to PhD level.”

ThrustWSH is not just about breaking records; it is about creating a legacy that inspires and educates. With the survey's launch, the project aims to engage with schools and students, providing them with the tools and knowledge to follow the project's progress and be inspired by its technological challenges.

Verity Noon, spokesperson for Nineteen Group, organisers of SM&E Week, said, “The ThrustWSH project represents the very best of British engineering and innovation. By giving the project, a platform at our event, we want to help to inspire young minds and demonstrate the exciting possibilities that careers in STEM can offer.”

The survey's results will be made public, providing valuable insights into the recruitment challenges and helping to shape the future of STEM education in the UK. The survey can be accessed here.

For further information, visit the ThrustWSH stand at SM&E Week 2024. 

To register for a free pass for the event, please visit: