Exhibitor Interview: Karen Silk, Joint Owner and Director at Capital International Staffing
Karen Silk is joint owner and director of Capital International Staffing, which specialises in engineering recruitment throughout the UK and Europe. She has worked in engineering recruitment since 1983 and is passionate about the recruitment and engineering industries. One of Karen’s key focuses is encouraging young people, specifically young women, to consider a career in engineering. Her success is demonstrated by achievements such as Sussex Business Woman of the Year, the APU Success in Business Award, being a member of the APSCo Representative Committee, and speaking at events including the Go Global Telesummit and the International Gender Diversity in Recruitment Conference.
Please tell us about your current role. What are your key focus areas and responsibilities?
As a director of Capital International I work hard personally managing our dedicated sales team and ensuring that Capital is the best it can be. My key responsibility is, and will always be, ensuring that Capital is able to provide the best experience for both their clients and the engineers that we work with.
Over the past decade I have dedicated a lot of time towards building Capital’s space and satellite sector. It is quite difficult to pinpoint the exact moment we started to work within the industry, as a number of our key clients have been involved in the sector for many years. In 2010 we reached a point where we went from simply supporting our clients resource needs to officially specialising in the sector. I made the decision to specialise in space and satellite when it became evident that we were facing a shortage of engineers not only nationally, but across the globe.
It was soon after noticing this engineering shortage that I started my first programme to encourage young people in schools to consider engineering as a career. What better way to inspire young people than by talking about the space industry and the exciting opportunities available to them? This work led me to work closely with some of the leading companies in the sector and the focus at Capital moved to heavily include space and satellite. It was not long after this that a specific team was established within Capital to support this growing sector.
What inspired you to join/start this company?
When I first became involved in the idea of Capital 36 years ago I was excited by the thought of being able to work with the large technical companies. I wanted to work with an industry where I can make a difference to the world in which we live. I personally am not an engineer, but I am someone who cares about the world and the future that we can create. The human resource needed to continue innovation and change is vital, and I have a company that is dedicated to building networks of engineers in order to supply the skills needed at the critical time. Our role is a small but essential step on the path to a better future.
I get inspiration every day from the companies we work with who are at the forefront of projects which will heavily impact the future.
What do you think sets your company apart from your competitors?
Capital is set apart by our committed people and our expertise in the world of engineering human resource. Our knowledge of the industry and the people within it has been built up over 36 years and is second to none. As a result of our longevity and experience we are often able to advise our clients regarding an engineer’s expertise from personal knowledge and references from clients with whom we work closely.
We always remember that however large the corporation, it is actually a group of individuals. It is these individuals who together make up the culture and the lifeblood of the business. We therefore focus on ‘being human’; making sure that our candidate-care programme is one of the best in the industry. We work closely with human resources, engineering and purchasing to ensure each engineer is a cultural fit and has the right technical skills, at a competitive fee and service level.
Our success in developing strong relationships with engineers is demonstrated by the number who have worked with Capital in excess of 20 years.
What are the key opportunities and challenges your company faces at present?
The rapid year-on-year growth of the space and satellite industry presents both our biggest opportunity and our biggest challenge!
Young, new and dynamic companies are entering the space market with inspiring new ideas and innovations, all needing to recruit the best engineers in the world to develop their groundbreaking ideas. This gives us the exciting opportunity to work with new clients and on new projects that will change the world we live in.
The challenge then comes to continually seek out the engineers our clients need to stay ahead in a very competitive world. We need to think where these engineers are coming from not only in the next year, but in the next 10 years. I see this as one of the key challenges facing us and our clients in the next five years and beyond.
This is why I have put much time into encouraging young people to join the space and satellite industry. In 2017/18 Capital sponsored a young engineering student during his final year studying aeronautics and astronautics at the University of Southampton. Marcus Collier-Wright wrote us a weekly blog detailing his work designing, manufacturing and testing a Neutraliser for an Ion Thruster; his project was shortlisted for the Design Excellence Award.
Are there any new technology developments that you are working on at the moment? Can you tell us about them?
As part of our expansion plans, this year we have opened an office in the technological park in Bremen, Germany. Bremen is a key location for the space and satellite industry and by opening an office here we will be able to support our clients. We will also be able to meet with key engineers to build communities where we share information and knowledge in order to improve our service to both our clients and candidates. This is a very exciting time in the development of our company.
What most excites you about your role?
The opportunity, the people and the real-world impact that the company I started can have by placing the right people with the right companies.
Engineers we have placed over the years have worked on huge projects that have made international news; the world’s largest jet engine, the world’s largest passenger airliner, the launch of multiple key satellites and more. There is always a buzz when I know Capital has played a part in the creation of a record beater. I’ve seen big announcements on television about projects where I know that Capital provided clients with the expertise when they needed it, and that feels amazing.
How do you think the industry will develop within the next five years? Can you tell us about the key trends emerging?
I think that the space and satellite industry will continue on its current upward trajectory, with new and exciting technology being developed along the way. I’m personally particularly excited about the increasing number of small start-up companies in the industry. I am interested to see the new technology that this trend will bring about, and how these companies will impact on the established players in the market.
What do you hope to achieve at the show this year, and what connections do you hope to make?
I hope to meet with some of our existing engineers and client contacts to discuss the future. I always make an effort to personally meet clients and engineers whenever I can, regularly travelling for on-site visits. The personal element of the industry is so important to me. I also hope to make introductions to companies not currently using our services and to meet up with some of the SMEs and hear about their plans for the future.
I’m looking forward to meeting with engineers who are unfamiliar with Capital, to be able to tell them how we are able to help them find their next exciting role and move their career in the direction they want.
The show will be a great opportunity to speak with people in the industry and make sure that we are up to date in the rapidly moving space and satellite sector. By speaking with people personally we can ensure that we are able to provide them with the best service possible.
Capital International Staffing will be exhibiting at Space Tech Expo Europe 2019 at stand L40.