Where are you now? - Mark Johnston: Progression from Apprentice to Chief Engineer

Where are you now? - Mark Johnston: Progression from Apprentice to Chief Engineer

Mark always knew that engineering was his passion. It was the subject that he excelled at most at school as well as having a natural curiosity, experience in tinkering with the inner workings of cars in his parent’s garage and his grandfather’s engineering holding company. It was this natural interest in engineering that drove Mark to apply for an apprenticeship role at Marshall where he began his outstanding career and progressed through the ranks from entry level apprentice to Chief Engineer.

Since the inception of Mark’s application as an apprentice, he has had a career that is nothing short of remarkable. Mark has been at Marshall for nearly four decades and during that time, he has worked on projects that that have had tremendous influence on the aerospace industry as we know it. While Mark is now in a position of significant authority within Marshall, his journey began at Marshall Skills Academy as an apprentice. He aspired to be a draftsman to create technical drawings of machinery that would eventually be built and used in aircraft that shaped the modern military world, such as the Lockheed C-130, Tristar, Meteor Jet Fighters and more.

“The important part of the apprenticeship was the engagement, not only of the remarkable people working there who can teach you exactly what you need to know, but also with the machinery and aircraft too. It was an incredible blend of practical and technical knowledge and experience that makes Marshall Skills Academy so unique and cannot be found anywhere else.”

When looking back on his time as an apprentice, Mark heralded the people, experience and project opportunities as attributes that made the Marshall Skills Academy a unique and exceptional experience in molding his career as a successful draftsman and engineer. The first was the impact that the people who worked at Marshall had on Mark’s professional development, both on his skills as well as his character. Mark was trained in the workshop by the legendary “good cop, bad cop” dream team – Robin Lipscombe and Keirron Mascall; two of Marshall’s longest serving learning facilitators with more than 100 years combined experience between them. They have helped Thousands of apprentices reach their potential and start their career in engineering. Mark reflected positively and spoke highly of the time in the workshop as it helped him understand the precision and detail required to be successful as an engineer.

Mark returned to the workshop many years after leaving to take part in a timed challenge against Keirron. They were tasked to complete a slot and curve metalwork project, which is first task that apprentices learn to do in the workshop to this day. Even though Mark was significantly faster than he was as an apprentice, Keirron still beat him.

Mark remembers one of the most exciting and proudest moments that allowed him to use all his apprenticeship knowledge and experience working on aircraft, was being the senior design engineer on the A-400M aircraft engine testbed. Mark was responsible for coordinating and installing the A-400M engines and propellers onto another aircraft for flight tests and trials to ensure the safety and reliability of the engines. It was a project that took months of work, planning and preparation to complete and the result was one that Mark described as the most challenging, yet rewarding experience of his career.

Mark also worked on Exovent - a modern version of the iron lung that helped support patients with respiratory failure due to COVID.

Although Mark has worked his way up to a senior position in the business as the Chief Engineer, he still has time to support the current apprentices as he knows first-hand the value of developing the talent of the future to address the growing global skills gap in industry.