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Oxley Community Engagement to Encourage Young Women into Aerospace Careers

Cumbria-based Oxley Group won the Inspire award at Sharing in Growth’s 2019 All STAR best practice sharing event. The company’s ambition is to double its turnover in five years and then triple it in ten years. To grow its business, needed to attract, retain and develop its people.

As well as working with Sharing in Growth to successfully engage and develop its current team, this case study looks at how Oxley is investing in the workforce of the future.

Darren Cavan Oxley Group chief executive officer explain the latest lighting technology
Darren Cavan Oxley Group chief executive officer explains the latest lighting technology

Oxley Group is a designer and manufacturer of LED lighting systems and electronic components for the aerospace and defence market, based in Cumbria. Oxley has innovation at its heart and the team work on world-class technology projects. Oxley needs a highly skilled workforce; however, there is a skills shortage and an aging population in Cumbria, coupled with areas of deprivation and young people who lack positive career role models.

It is vital that Oxley builds the skills of local young people so they can be the workforce of the future, therefore the business is involved in a range of engagement programmes aimed at local 6-16 year olds. The company’s apprentices are actively involved and Oxley encourages the whole team to sign up as STEM ambassadors. Oxley is a proud signatory to the Women in Aviation & Aerospace Charter and proactively encourages young women into STEM careers. Over half of the company’s 200 strong workforce is female.

Building My Skills is a five-module skills programme and Oxley delivers sessions within local schools, including Career Pathway, CV Writing, Interview Skills, Social Media Awareness and Workplace Conduct. Oxley uses female role models to deliver this activity to break down gender stereotypes. This programme offers young people an insight into the world of work, tools to access employment as well as giving them visibility of ‘hidden’ engineering roles & routes into those careers.

Starting engagement at primary school age is important to Oxley. Under the ‘Bright Stars’ scheme Oxley works with primary schools who receive £50 to launch a business. Team members work with a group of children in the role of business mentors, hosting visits from the children and helping them to organise their class as a mini business. This helps the children to gain an insight into running an aerospace business and learn employability skills from a young age.

‘Oxley’s commitment to building a highly skilled workforce is evident in the time it gives to supporting engagement. Oxley is recognised as a leading, proactive partner of schools in Furness, offering young people hands on insights into the opportunities a career in aerospace has to offer. Creating exciting and meaningful work-based learning for pupils has impacted noticeably on both educational standards and the take up of pupils eager to pursue careers in STEM fields.’
Caroline Vernon, Headteacher Victoria Academy

Furness Future Leaders Academy is a three-week summer school for local children who show promising talent. Oxley has been a key part of the programme since its inception, the team design and deliver a series of hands on workshops to enable young people to gain an understanding of engineering and improve employability skills, female apprentices deliver the activity to provide visibility of women in engineering roles. Oxley has continued to work with some of these young people directly providing one to one mentoring for children who need to improve their confidence and emotional resilience.

Oxley has led the way in working creatively with young people to build their confidence, skills and aspirations. The company recognises the value of engaging with children at every stage of education to develop the essential skills needed to succeed and gain an awareness of the opportunities open to them in future.’
Catherine Webb, Furness Future Leaders Academy

Oxley started running community skills programmes in 2014 and has had meaningful interactions with over 10,000 young people. This work is building employability skills for the future, developing interest in STEM careers, proactively supporting young women into engineering careers and providing positive career role modelling for young people. The whole Oxley team feels an enormous sense of pride in giving something back to young people in their community.