About Us

Recognising the severe shortage of future engineers in the UK, and having identified that one of the main blockages to young people entering the industry is a lack of accurate and relevant information, the ACP has set about doing all it can to increase the number of young people undertaking STEM learning and pursuing careers in engineering based industries, especially aerospace and space, regardless of the specific job.

During the academic year the ACP undertakes a travelling presentation roadshow involving ACP personnel, industry speakers and role models which spreads relevant and up-to-date industry information directly to pupils from all backgrounds. The first presentations took place in Autumn 2021 and are updated constantly with industry news as the presentations roll across the UK year by year. Attendance at these presentations is at the discretion of the schools and colleges involved.

Currently the ACP supplies careers advice digitally to 642 schools across all regions of the UK, advice that is updated and provided directly every three months to secondary school/college head teachers and careers advisors. Additionally, it is intended to introduce an interactive careers portal to our website as 2024 progresses.

The follow-on Network was launched at the Farnborough International Airshow 2022 and is open to all young people who have attended an ACP presentation, their schools, colleges and employers, plus all individuals and organisations supporting the ACP. The aim is to assist these young people enter, and then progress, their careers in aerospace and aviation. Membership of the Network, like all the other elements of the ACP, is free to the young people involved. Two trial events were undertaken most successfully in 2023 and now a comprehensive survey of schools on the one hand, and supporting companies on the other, is underway to ascertain how best the Network can assist our beneficiaries – the young people involved – as the ACP continues to progress through the 2020’s and beyond.


The Board of Trustees is responsible for setting the policies, and overseeing the strategic planning and operation of the Schools’ Aerospace Careers Programme Charity, thereby ensuring that all decisions are taken in the best interests of the beneficiaries.

Dr Michael Smith
Chairman ACP
Dr Michael Smith

Leaving Colfe’s School in 1962 at the age of 16, Michael was commissioned into the Royal Air Force seven years later as a professional entrant, having in the meantime gained an HND in Business Studies whilst earning his living as a rock and jazz drummer, and working with young people in the East End of London via the Air Training Corps. Thereafter, he undertook a diversity of appointments which included being a senior executive in the field with responsibility for 3,000 people; and a tutor at both the RAF College and the RAF Staff College, the latter of which he is an Advanced Staff Course graduate.

As a military Legal, Finance and HR Director some of his more unusual professional involvement included alcoholism, blackmail, drug addiction, espionage, extreme violence, family bereavement, fraud, infant mortality, rape, state honours & awards, suicide and terminal illness. Michael has chaired or advised many Boards of Inquiry into fatal accidents and serious incidents, and sat as a member of over 30 Courts Martial.

Deciding to leave the Military after only 20 years, having been tempted into management consultancy, his Service career culminated as an adviser to the UK Deputy Chief of Defence Staffs and appropriate Ministers on personnel and financial issues for 330,000 regular & reserve military personnel, plus the senior Civil Service, the senior Judiciary and NHS Consultants.

Michael commenced his business career with P-E International where he worked with company Boards across many UK industry sectors. In 1993 he founded Griffonage specialising in executive & NED search, adding coaching in 2006. Focusing on aerospace, defence and Formula 1/Le Mans motorsport he conducted over 10,000 hours of interviewing, coaching, facilitation and consultancy at Board and senior executive level, primarily in the UK and USA, but also in Continental Europe, China and Singapore. Typical clients ranged from such SMEs as Cosworth, Lola and Quadrics Supercomputers, through large companies such as Cobham, GKN, Jaguar F1 and Serco, to global corporations such as CAE, Raytheon and Rolls-Royce.

Realising the value of Griffonage in 2012, he undertook a period as a Visiting Professor. At the same time, for two years he was a mentor to a senior member of the Royal Household via the IOD programme ‘Develop a Director’. Then, in 2015, with three senior international directors, he embarked on a business venture entitled Experience Tells Ltd working with the Boards of SMEs to large companies in the manufacturing and service sectors, especially those concerned with aerospace & defence. He is now retired from fee-paying business.

In anticipation of that retirement, in 2019 Michael commenced the creation and development of a UK-wide youth engagement programme the aim of which was, and remains, to encourage the interest of young people in technology generally and, specifically, provide them with a permanent careers advisory and support service in respect of the aerospace, space and aviation industries. Michael converted the programme into a charity (#1190721) in 2020 which, in 2023, was re-named ‘The Schools’ Aerospace Careers Programme’; he is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees.

Michael holds a Professional Doctorate in Senior Executive Coaching & Team Learning, and an MA in Business Coaching. Until its disbandment in 2016, Michael was a member of the Court of Cranfield University for seven years. In addition, he is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce; and for over 25 years a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, and the Chartered Institute of Management. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Directors.

Additionally, he is a Liveryman (and therefore Freeman) of the City of London, and the 2018/19 Master of the City Livery Company – The Fan Makers. He remains a member of the company’s Court. He is a member of the RAF Club and, for 20 years, a member of the Honourable Artillery Company and the Worshipful Company of Coachmakers. He was the initiator of the affiliation of the City of London with II (AC) Squadron RAF of which he is an Honorary Member. For a set three-year term Michael was a Trustee of three City-based charitable funds. He is a guest speaker with Speakers for Schools.

Adrian Jones
Deputy Chairman & Treasurer ACP
Adrian Jones

Adrian read History at Cambridge, and then joined Arthur Andersen (gaining his ACA qualification). After a short period in South Africa, he worked in a variety of financial roles at Belron International (the parent company of Autoglass) for thirteen years – the last seven, as Group Finance Director of an organisation with a turnover of $1.7bn, over 13,000 employees, and operating across 17 countries.

He subsequently worked for two Family businesses, handling FD, CEO, and Chairman type roles across a number of non-synergistic operations and countries. For the last several years, he has operated in a consultancy capacity, working on projects of his choosing. His skills cover fund raising, acquisitions and disposals, and strategy formulation. Adrian is married, lives in Ascot, Berkshire, and has three grown up children. He still actively participates in sports, but of a gentler persuasion – golf, skiing (both water and snow), running – and regularly visits the Principality Stadium in Cardiff to watch the Welsh Rugby Team.

Christopher Smith
BA (Hons)
Christopher Smith

Christopher Smith has more than twenty years of auditing experience and is a senior audit partner with Grant Thornton UK LLP, as such, he is the firm’s National Head of Audit Technical and Head of the firm’s Financial Reporting Advisory Group in London.

Working with a mixture of private and listed clients (London Full List, AiM and TSX) in the UK and internationally he has considerable experience of working in various jurisdictions and advising on accounting matters affecting different countries and sectors.  Christopher is also a key member of the firm’s UK and global mining team with considerable experience of the oil, gas and mining sectors.

Elaine Whyte
BEng (Hons) MBA CEng FIET
Elaine Whyte

Elaine is an experienced transformation leader with a successful track record in driving complex change. Her passion lies in the defence sector where she has been fortunate to work for over 30 years having served in the RAF as an Engineering Officer for 20 of these years and continues now as a consultant. Driven by her values of trust, integrity and inclusivity, Elaine ensures that an open and honest dialogue is maintained with clients and colleagues alike.

Recognising the importance of stakeholder alignment in all change programmes, Elaine invests a great deal of time to ensure the team understands, supports and pushes forward the agenda to achieve the desired culture change. More recently, inspired by the opportunities that emerging technology could deliver, Elaine has driven the use of drones in the commercial sector and is now supporting defence to deliver its next generation of satellite communication systems.

Within defence, she is using this experience to design and build Enterprise Integrator services that will lever technological solutions at pace to deliver capability enhancements. Elaine is passionate about social mobility and mentors young people through the Social Mobility Foundation.

Supporting Team

Working in a team or individually as appropriate, and reporting to the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, the Supporting Team currently comprises, and is responsible for:

Chris Marshall
Videography & Technology
Chris Marshall

Chris is a highly qualified systems manager with 15 years experience in a variety of UK data integration projects. He commenced his career as a QA Auditor and progressed from there to ISO QA Systems & Process Manager for Government, oil & gas, rail and civil engineering projects. His relevant qualifications are legion and read like an alphabet: HMG Infosec; ISO; CAA RPAS; HSE; NEBOSH and LRQA.

In 2015 Chris entered a new phase of his career when he established a UK Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (UAS) service for the film, TV, agriculture and surveying industries. As a CAA Recognised Assessment Entity uncrewed aircraft systems pilot assessor he now certifies remote pilots in respect of UK RPAS Open A2 and Specific Categories operations. In doing so he has established the UK’s first online CAA uncrewed aircraft systems training course and, employing Virtual Reality technology, provides instruction and mentoring for UAS pilots all over the world. Continuing to develop these systems, new components will be released in 2023 and 2024.

Not surprisingly the linked training aids are proving very popular with students during the ACP schools’ presentations. Furthermore, when employed as such Chris continues to foster the UK RPAS/Aviation industry’s future by advocating it amongst each generation of young people. With these capabilities, his personal enthusiasm, and his company’s ability to produce video and associated sound from filming through editing to final production, Chris has committed himself to the aim of the ACP as the Programme’s lead videographer.

Emma Versen
BEd (Hons)
Emma Versen

Emma is an experienced and dedicated teacher having been a member of the profession for 15 years. Starting as a teaching assistant, she trained in-school whilst successfully studying for a BEd (Hons) degree. Since qualifying Emma has taught in several schools, with a particular emphasis on English. In doing so she has made a significant impact on students’ learning journeys whilst continuing to hone her teaching skills. This experience has enabled her to help countless students develop strong reading and language skills. So much so that, whilst teaching full-time she was offered the appointment of Head of English.

However, when her daughter was born in 2018 she decided to move to part-time teaching and, with a commercial company, part-time administration. These experiences and skills, coupled with her understanding of young people, her strong communicative ability, focus on detail and excellent work ethic attracted the ACP Trustees to approach her in respect of joining their support team as ACP Administrator. This she did at the beginning of 2023

Michael Stokes
Digital Communications
Michael Stokes

Mike possesses extensive experience in conceptualising, building, and optimising digital infrastructures for a diverse array of businesses and organisations, with a particular focus on website creation, implementation, and expansion. Having accrued considerable experience as a freelancer across the United States and Spain, he now resides in the United Kingdom, where he has founded his own business to diligently service his client base.

In addition to his accomplishments in the digital domain, Mike holds a Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL) with multiple endorsements. Moreover, he is presently engaged in acquiring the ATPL theory certification, a testament to his commitment to venture into advanced aviation pursuits, including flight instruction.

Lee Mason
Virtual Reality
Lee Mason

Lee is a digital artist who’s been exploring and teaching digital creation software for over 20 years. A firm believer in the profound synergy between the digital and physical realms, he utilizes cutting-edge technologies including AI, VR, AR and blockchain tools to rapidly iterate on design concepts as well as embark on a creative exploration that transcends conventional boundaries. In recent years Lee’s work has been exhibited in New York, Paris, Miami and London. You can see his portfolio on Instagram (@metageist_).

Always an early adopter and enthusiastic sharer of new creative technology he has directed businesses, lead design teams, designed the UKs first internet banking site, spoken at TEDx and introduced creative tools to people from all walks of life between the ages of 8 and 88. Also a keen promoter and curator, he has hosted many digital art events both in real life and within his own VR environments.

Lee joins the ACP team as a VR practitioner showcasing how spatial design tools can inspire focused creative sessions, speed up the design process and enable immersive remote collaboration.

ACP Partner Companies and Organisations

The ACP has a continuously growing network of partner companies and organisations across industry with whom we work. From providing experiences and opportunities through our ACP Network, to ensuring the latest industry developments are included in our school presentations, our partner companies are key to ensuring students receive the latest, relevant information to plan their careers. You can find our partner companies here.

ACP Host Schools

The ACP takes STEM related educational advice from all relevant sources. You can find our growing list of host schools here.