Since joining Marshall Skills Academy in February, Anthony “Jacko” Jackson has been asking himself the same question every day: “What does extraordinary look like?”
The question serves to focus Anthony on his mandate of developing and delivering a strategy for training extraordinary technical instructors who will form the backbone of Marshall Skills Academy. Thankfully, Anthony’s extensive RAF background and expertise in leadership training have equipped him to identify and exploit the unique talent opportunities in Marshall’s skill pool, while preparing him for the challenges that inevitably come with such a high-impact, high-responsibility role.
Learning structured creativity from the RAF
In 1999, shortly after finishing school in his native Manchester, Anthony joined the RAF as an avionics technician – a decision inspired after seeing a recruitment advert featuring a Harrier jump jet flying over a village in Kosovo. After his Harrier squadron disbanded several years later, Anthony joined the RAF’s careers office in Liverpool as an outreach consultant, delivering motivational activities and team-building sessions whilst creating closer community relationships with the RAF.
Anthony then continued to develop his career as a coach and trainer, spending a decade in a range of roles including managing large avionics teams working on C130 Hercules aircraft and providing professional development and management training for the Royal Air Force of Oman. Ultimately, after a couple years spent on-site with Marshall as a technical specialist within the RAF’s C130J Hercules Delivery Team, Anthony made the move to Marshall Skills Academy in February 2023, bringing with him two decades of armed forces technical and leadership experience — as well as proficiency in Arabic and training in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).
Anthony’s RAF background has left him with a strong fundamentals-first instinct. "There are pros and cons to having been in the services for so long, but one of the advantages is the structure,” says Anthony. “Whenever we go somewhere new, you find out what they need you to do and you can say, 'I don't agree with that, let's change it, let's see the quality management system, let's see the safety management. It's hard-wired into us. And it's great, because straight away you just want to make sure the foundations are in place.'"
Anthony also emphasises the need for creativity and self-expression in the training process: "I'm a chaotic kind of guy, which is great because I can be really creative and innovative,” he says. “But from my perspective, that’s only possible when everything else is already in place."
The future of technical training at Marshall Skills Academy
Anthony is excited by Marshall Skills Academy’s growth aspirations over the next five years and, to support this, the need to significantly increase the number of qualified instructors who are also licensed engineers.
Anthony already has a clear vision for instructor development at Marshall Skills Academy. "If you look at the training program that's coming, there's so much opportunity," he explains. "I'm driven, motivated and my values are aligned with the company. We've already got that shared vision, that shared direction, so how we achieve that is innovative, it's creative, it's as dynamic as you can make it."
Beyond qualifications, Anthony is a firm advocate for building self-belief in instructors and making self-reflection second nature. “Rather than just delivering, we want them to analyse their training, the way they develop it, the way they implement it, the way they reflect on it, the post-feedback from the students, and the way they critically assess each other," he explains.
Building extraordinary at Marshall
Reflecting on his reasons for joining Marshall and his experience so far, Anthony is (momentarily) lost for words. "There's just something about this place,” he says. “I don't know what it is; I think it's the ambition. The five-year strategy's very ambitious, but very achievable. If our focus is on, I think we're going to review this in three years' time, and find we've surpassed it."
Anthony was particularly drawn to Marshall’s mission statement, “Building Extraordinary Futures,” which is what prompted him to ask himself every day what extraordinary looks like.
"Technical training has always been ordinary,” he explains. “Once you get to fix an aeroplane, however, that is extraordinary. But there's so many steps you need to take in order to do that. If one of those steps isn't extraordinary, let's capture it, come back to it and think: What do we need to do now then? What investment, what resources, what people do we need to come in and support that?
“If you can make each one of those steps extraordinary, for me that's a game-changer."
To find out more about Technical Training at Marshall Skills Academy, click below.