Former apprentice Zac Gibbs to lead Marshall Skills Academy Workshop into new era

Former apprentice Zac Gibbs to lead Marshall Skills Academy Workshop into new era

In an organisation that prides itself on its extraordinary people, Zac Gibbs is something of a rising star. A former apprentice, aircraft fitter and learning facilitator, Zac is now taking the reins at Marshall Skills Academy’s workshop during a time of growth and evolution.

The workshop is the first point of call for every new apprentice, and is where they pick up some of the basic hand skills that will serve as a foundation for their career. Over the seven months spent in the workshop, new apprentices also learn the professionalism and discipline that come with leaving school and entering the working world. Zac joined Marshall as an apprentice himself back in 2014, and will now be managing the workshop less than ten years later.

After completing his apprenticeship and working as an aircraft fitter, Zac made the choice to transfer into becoming a learning facilitator, where he mentors the future generations of engineers. This was something he naturally strived to do: “Even during my own apprenticeship, I had been involved in mentoring other apprentices,” he says. “I knew exactly how they were feeling on their first day, so naturally wanted to get involved and share what I’d learned at Marshall over the years.”

Zac will now be managing the instructors who directly oversee the development of the new cohort of apprentices each year, while also being in charge of monitoring quality of delivery, scheduling, resource allocation, health and safety and ensuring the workshop simulates an environment as close to the workplace as possible. He explains: “I’m absolutely planning to continue supporting the apprentices with their hand skills and get back on the tools from time to time.”

Indeed, Zac has always preferred a hands-on approach that allows him to indulge his love of all things technical. His own engineering journey started in his teens, when he spent his A level years teaching himself mechanical skills by independently restoring Land Rovers—a passion he still maintains to this day. At the same time he also completed a short work experience at Red Hill aerodrome, where he spent roughly a month learning how to perform light servicing on small piston engine aircraft.

All of this equipped Zac with a high degree of technical know-how early on, whereas many incoming apprentices will be encountering hand skills for the very first time. In his most recent role as a learning facilitator, Zac has come to fully understand the need for patience and persistence when working with apprentices who are starting “from zero.” He also has a very firm grasp of the apprenticeship programme, learning stages, milestones and pitfalls along the learner’s journey, which makes him the perfect person to take on the many responsibilities of the Workshop Manager role.

Zac’s big step up happens to be coming at a time of enormous growth for Marshall Skills Academy. The training team is preparing to onboard its largest training cohort ever, while simultaneously delivering apprenticeships for a record number of aerospace organisations. Additionally, from this year onwards all Cambridge-based practical and classroom apprenticeship training will relocate to a spacious and fully modernised facility.

Zac is proud to be playing a pivotal role during such an exciting period. “Our September 2023 cohort is the largest ever, we’re looking to recruit further instructors, and even the new facility is the best we’ve ever had for our apprentices,” he explains.

“It’s going to be a challenge to get the new workshop up and running, and there’s a lot of work ahead of us, but everything has been heading in the right direction. We’re improving tooling and processes, we’re digitalising a lot of our resources, and ensuring the best possible learner experience.”

Further insights into the future of technical training at Marshall Skills Academy are available in a profile of Anthony Jackson, who joined the organisation in the role of Technical Training Manager earlier this year.