STEM Q&A – Submarine Support Management Group Waterfront Team Leader

Name: Nigel Thornber

Fun fact: Engineering comes from the Latin word ‘ingenium’ meaning cleverness

What is your current role?

I currently work alongside the Royal Navy to give technical advice and support on submarine programmes, as well as liaisng with the Ministry of Defence Design Authorities to resolve any issues. I am also the single point of contact at Devonport in the UK for Babcock Canada, who deliver in service support to the Victoria Class Submarines of the Royal Canadian Navy.

What GCSE’s and A-Levels did you take at school?

GCSE’s: Maths, English, English Literature, Physics & French.

At the later part of my Naval Career I attained GCSE’s in English Language, English Literature, Maths and AS Level General Studies. 

I also achieved Professional Qualifications from the Chartered Management & Welding Institutes, along with qualifications in Project Management.

What were you interested in growing up and did this impact your decision to pursue a career in STEM?

From a very young age I was interested in finding out how things work. For my eigth birthday my parents bought me a working model steam engine (I still have it in working order over half a century later). At the age of 12 I followed my brother and joined the Sea Cadets. This is where I learnt more about engineering, thanks to one of the parents who showed us how to strip down, diagnose and fix the engines on the motor boats. At 18 I joined the Royal Navy as a Marine Engineering Mechanic and following basic Naval and Engineering training, I joined the Submarine Service. Following a very successful career spanning 30 years working on nuclear submarines, I joined Babcock.

What’s your favourite thing about working for Babcock?

I like being able to support present day submarine crews and Babcock engineers to ensure that the platforms are in a safe state to go to sea. I also enjoy being given the opportunity to encourage the next generation of engineers through my STEM work.

Where do you want to take your career within Babcock?

To be quite honest I have got to where I want to be – that said you never know what opportunities are just around the corner!

What would your advice be to school students choosing GSCEs and thinking of options for the future?

Try your very best at school especially in subjects like Maths, English and Science but realise that not everyone is academically minded – I wasn’t in my early years. Remember you don’t have to get a degree to forge a long and interesting career, there are many opportunities out there for everyone so never give up on your dreams and aspirations! Work hard and you will get there and be proud of yourself.