A pilot initiative by defence group BAE Systems will train 50 apprentices for companies supplying its factories in the North West from September 2013.
Smaller firms with no in-house training can send their young engineers to BAE Systems to be trained in the latest techniques and with the latest machinery.
Takis Gerdelis, production manager at one of the supplier companies, Magellan Aerospace of Blackpool, commented that it did have other training providers, “but BAE Systems is able to provide specific aerospace manufacturing training.”
The first 50 people to enter the scheme will be trained at the firm’s Apprentice Training Centre in Preston as a part of the new £2.8m apprenticeship scheme.
Successful candidates will receive a three-year apprenticeship in engineering from BAE Systems before joining a company supplying components or services to the defence group’s military aircraft business in Lancashire or submarines construction facility in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.
UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) granted BAE Systems £1.4M to train the 50 apprentices, with the company matching this with its own funds and resources.
The £1.4m comes from a £165m pot designated for the Employer Ownership Pilot, which aims to increase the number of skilled engineers in the UK by putting more power in the hands of employers to shape training and encouraging collaboration amongst employers to address supply chain skills challenges.
Nigel Whitehead, group managing director at BAE Systems described the pilot scheme as a win-win situation.
“Supplier companies with more limited resources can access first-class training programmes and facilities while larger businesses take responsibility for developing the specific skills they need to grow and sustain their business, and with it their supply chains,” he said.
Mr Whitehead added that he hopes to “extend this scheme to other parts of the UK” in the future.
BAE Systems has around 1,000 apprentices currently training in its three year apprenticeship programme. Its programme has one of the highest completion rates in the engineering sector and was rated Grade 1 – ‘outstanding’ by OFSTED in July 2010.
Steve Lee from Regal Precision Engineering, one of the supplier companies who attended the conference, said: “Regal is not alone in finding that the major constraint in business growth is the lack of skilled people. This initiative seeks to address the problem by creating a generation of talented machinists for the manufacturing sector.”