Last year, Marshall Skills Academy took on several adult trainees to form a cohort of learners to retrain to become competent aircraft maintenance professionals to fill skills gaps in our current aerospace workforce. Juliusz Wolk was one of the lucky few who were given the opportunity, and for him, it was a dream come true that was many years in the making. We caught up with Juliusz to learn more about his journey and what the adult trainee programme meant to him.
“My uncle was a pilot in the Polish Air Force, I admired him, and it had a strong influence on my childhood. However, if someone told me a decade ago that I would be working on aircraft, or joining the Royal Aeronautical Society, I would not have believed them.
"Just over ten years ago, I arrived in the United Kingdom with nothing but my backpack and no clear vision of what I wanted to do besides quickly find a job.
“Luckily, the very first job I got was in Aerospace manufacturing. This is where I met an amazing and inspirational person, George Tarling. He was already over 80 years’ old when we met, still actively working and with many years of experience in Aerospace. The more time I spent with him, the more we talked, the more I learned and discovered, the more I realised what I wanted to do. “Always learning, always learning” – he used to say. The seed continued growing since then. I will never get bored I thought and then I got promoted into an inspection role.
“The decision was made as to what I wanted to do with my life, the only question was how I was going to achieve it? I remembered a conversation with a careers advisor very well, who, with sympathy, didn’t leave me with any illusions saying it would be hard or impossible to secure my dream job.
“I studied philosophy, I had some experience in sales, customer service, social media, human rights, but nothing was close to Military Aerospace.
“It took a while. I conducted wide research of aerospace companies in the UK, mapped all possible options and even considered relocating. I was constantly developing my skills and knowledge to give myself the best possible chance of success.
“In 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine. I was watching the events unfold closely with strong emotions (but that is a separate story). At the time, I thought that Military Aerospace is the area where I could contribute to defence and deterrence and making the mission possible is still my main motivation at work. Here at Marshall, I feel a bit like I am on a mission to support the allies be that RAF, USAF, SAF, RNLAF, or Austrian Air Force.
"The ultimate and proudest moment for me is when I read in August 2020, that the RAF P8 Pride of Morrey completed its first operational mission shadowing a Russian warship Vasily Bykov in the North Sea, knowing it was supplied with auxiliary fuel tanks that I helped build.
“I spent six years as a fitter, closely looking for an opportunity to progress my career. When information arrived, that for the first time in 12 years, an adult retraining program was going to run I couldn’t believe it. Luckily, my partner was understanding and supportive.
“I am so grateful that I found Marshall Aerospace and registered on the career web page, even though it took a year before I found a position l could apply for. I must admit it was a bit of luck I got on to the P8 Poseidon auxiliary tank program. I really enjoyed my job, people I’ve met and the stories I’ve heard. Here, I met Glen Walford who was ex RAF and always encouraged me to follow my dreams. People I’ve met here, the team I work with sharing similar passions is yet another reason to be proud to be here, but it would be a long list to mention them all.
“We had an amazing and, at times, humorous time in the workshop with the legend, Robin Lipscombe, unbeatable filing artisan Dave Chapman and always full of stories about C130 work experience with Zac Gibbs. Training itself is a combination of multiple tasks carried out with the purpose to learn important skills for our future roles, but it is also designed to observe our behaviours; how we spot and solve problems, which themselves are crucial skills. It is not all about hand skills, we have learned crucial life and people skills as well. Involvement in overall culture, pillars, continuous improvement, event investigations or Unions are very important elements on a day-to-day basis.
“I am 41 years old at the time of writing this article (2022), and the main message I would like to share Is that I am living proof that enthusiasm and hard work allows people to achieve things that might seem impossible at first. This includes official, formal recognition. Proper formal education is a privilege, and I am grateful that the Marshall apprenticeship programme has allowed me to improve myself, the quality of my work and realise my career ambitions."