Clean Growth | An Interview with Niklas Meyn

In June 2019 the UK went more than a fortnight without using coal to make power for the first time since the 1880s, when Queen Victoria was on the throne. The world is shifting to clean growth, with the Government making the UK the first major economy to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050.  

The UK has already reduced emissions by 42% and has put clean growth at the heart of the Government’s modern Industrial Strategy.  It is believed the country’s low carbon economy could grow around 11 per cent a year to 2030, four times faster than the rest of the economy.  

This could see the number of “green collar jobs” grow to two million by 2030.  This means more employment opportunities around offshore wind, electric vehicles, smart energy systems and green finance should be appearing in the future.  

But what is it like to work in this industry and what qualifications would you need to land a green job? Niklas Meyn, an aerospace engineer at Edinburgh-based company ACT Blade explains more. 

What exactly do you do?

I am an aerospace engineer, meaning that I can design lightweight structures with aerodynamic performance. In our company, we are developing a wind turbine blade that is more lightweight by using a sail to create the wing surface. As part of the team at ACT Blade, I am responsible for designing the composite structure of the blade to make it strong enough to carry all the energy from the wind into the generator to create electricity, while being as lightweight as possible.

What attracted you to the industry you are in?

For me, the greatest magic has always been why aeroplanes fly. As a child, I loved doing simple experiments with my parents and understood that science helps to lift the curtain. After finishing school, I was first planning to become a pilot, but then figured that I am better off designing planes than flying them. Once I started studying aerospace engineering, I finally managed to understand aeroplanes and that it has nothing to do with magic.

Are there any subjects you studied at school that help with your work?

Subjects that shouldn’t be a surprise include physics, design and technology, computing and a bit of chemistry. Less obvious may be your creative skills that you learn in “art and design”.

But most important – not only for technical jobs – is the ability to think logically and rationally to break down complex problems so that they can be solved. And this is taught in the paramount subject to all, maths.

What qualifications do you need and how long does it take to become qualified?

I studied and graduated from a university with a program where I learned all the theoretical background that is needed to solve the modern problems in engineering – and predict the behaviour of designs, before it is built.

To advance in the field of aerospace, finishing with a masters degree is very helpful. There you learn very specific topics like aerodynamics of wings and rotors, design of lightweight aircraft structures, calculating satellite orbits, and much more. This takes 4-5 years in total for most people.

What do you find exciting about it, why do you enjoy it?

As an engineer, you have gained the ability to advance the world in a field that matters to you, by solving social problems with modern technology.

Our society and environment are currently facing their biggest threat in the last several million years. Most researchers predict that we have only very few years left to change the way of producing and consuming energy in our society altogether. 

We are at the crossroad of making living on earth sustainable for the coming centuries. Renewable energies will be a major part of the solution. It motivates me every day to be part of the industry and a team of engineers, that is working hard to give us a chance to win.

Why would you encourage young people to work in this industry?

Fighting climate change will be a dominant topic for the foreseeable future and will need a constant stream of innovation and new technology to make it happen. If you are interested in science or technology and you want to help to shape the future of your generation and others to come, the industry of renewable energies is the place where you can grow.

As time goes on, you may be more and more interested in a steady, well paid position. Engineering generally offers this, still with many opportunities for personal development and diverse job opportunities that are not limited to one specific industry.

What sort of salary can you expect to be earning?

The salary varies depending on many factors like industry, area/country, age, skills and position. As an aerospace engineer you will have a qualification that is sought after in many industries. This is reflected by the salary being usually higher than the average within people of your age and area. You can expect to start your career with up to £30,000 per year.

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