On 8th November JET hosted a VIP JET Space Forum at the Wellcome Collection in London, to bring together space industry leaders and government officials to help shape a collaborative approach to tackling youth inequality in the UK. In addition, the forum was used to announce a major new funding boost for JET’s youth programmes from the event’s lead sponsor, Northrop Grumman. 

The forum was chaired by JET CEO Dr Emma Egging, and co-hosted by JET Patrons Professor Brian Cox, and Air Vice-Marshal Harv Smyth, Director Space UK MOD. Over 70 of the UK’s space industry leaders and key government officials gathered for the closed-door event during which the charity called on the burgeoning sector to work together to help inspire and raise-up the next generation. 

“The space sector in the UK stands on the cusp of a period of extraordinary growth and opportunity,” says Dr Emma Egging. “We already know, from working with many space industry partners over the past decade, how the sector has a unique capacity to inspire and motivate youngsters. We also know that the sector already supports some fantastic youth initiatives and apprenticeship schemes. The key question we wanted to address, was not what is already being done, but what more can be done by working together.  

“At JET, we work with vulnerable young people who are struggling to engage at school, or who are suffering with low confidence which threatens future employment prospects. We help them to get back on track and give them the competencies and self-belief to transition into successful employment when they leave school. Our interventions aren’t one-off touch points though, but instead we work with youngsters on a sustained basis over a number of years. And this is the conversation we wanted to ignite at the forum; asking the industry to consider what more it can do to support longer-term interventions to lift up some of the most vulnerable in society. We also wanted to highlight the vital importance of offering early intervention packages to pupils as young as 10. Many of the current space sector initiatives are aimed at the apprenticeship age bracket with a focus on ages 16+, but we know from our existing programmes that the downward trajectory of young people who are likely to become NEET [not in education, employment or training] often starts from a much earlier age.” 

During the forum, Air Vice-Marshal Harv Smyth hosted a lively Q&A debate with delegates and says he hopes the event will help shape future thinking in the sector and allow space to act as a catalyst for raising the aspirations of the young people JET supports.

Air Vice-Marshal Harv Smyth chairing a lively Q&A session with Dr Emma Egging, Professor Brian Cox, Blake Bullock and Kathie Bowden

Professor Brian Cox has been a JET ambassador and patron since 2014, and says that sector collaboration is key to harnessing its huge potential to helping tackle rising inequality in the wake of the pandemic. 

“JET’s methodology is simple, and it works” says Brian. “The team provide a bridge, linking young people to the opportunities and resources that enable them to be the best they can be. Working intensively and over time, the various attributes and partnerships mean that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Hearing our young people speak at the Forum about the difference the charity has made has been incredibly moving and I hope the space sector will come onboard to contribute alongside JET’s other inspiring partners – including the RAF – and help JET to reach out to even more young people who are struggling.” 

JET Patron Professor Brian Cox chats to JET graduates Max and Izzy who spoke at the JET Space Forum of the positive impact that the charity has had on their outlook and career prospects.

The event was made possible with generous funding from lead sponsors Northrop Grumman, with additional backing from tech leaders Airbus and QinetiQ. Northrop Grumman’s Chief Executive in the UK, Nick Chaffey, said that in addition to supporting the JET Space Forum it was also pleased to announce a major new funding boost to help support JET’s future programmes in Norfolk, North Wales and Oxfordshire: “We have deep roots across the UK and a passion to help young people continue their education and find inspiration in the wonder of science and engineering,” said Nick. “As a long-time JET partner, we are pleased to announce this new funding to help young people to succeed.” 

Dr Emma Egging says that the charity is delighted by Northrop’s announcement of ongoing support, which will allow the Trust to expand its reach to even more vulnerable young people in the wake of the pandemic. Emma says that the forum is ‘just the start of the conversation’ with the space sector as a whole, and has appealed to all delegates to continue to work with JET to ensure real change is achieved.

“Having spent the past decade supporting over 30,000 young people through our long-standing partnerships with the aviation industry and the RAF, we know of the huge potential within STEM to offer vulnerable youngsters a springboard to a brighter future. We know that the burgeoning space sector has the potential to effect a similarly positive impact, and that sector collaboration is key. We are delighted that the JET Space Forum was so well attended and hope that this will be the jumping off point for creating meaningful longer-term initiatives that will ensure no young person is left behind by the opportunities that will present themselves as the sector grows.”