National Apprentice Week started today with BAE Systems announcing it will recruit 290 apprentices for its UK business in 2011, the same number as in 2010.
The company runs one of the country’s largest training schemes, with more than 1,000 apprentices across the company’s UK sites at any one time.
Apprentices – 95% of them undertaking engineering training – have the opportunity to work on some of the biggest and most complex engineering programmes in the country, including the Astute attack submarine, the Typhoon aircraft programme and the Type 45 anti-aircraft destroyer.
Nigel Whitehead, group managing director of programmes and support, who started his career as an engineering apprentice, said: “The contribution that apprentices make to our business cannot be overstated. Our company is reliant on having a pipeline of talent, and the apprenticeship scheme gives us the right mix of skills and enthusiasm we need to constantly innovate and move forward.”
Most BAE Systems’ apprentices are between the ages of 16 and 21, but in March 2009 the company began an apprentice training programme suitable for adults at Robin Hood airport in Doncaster, UK. This was to combat a national shortage of aircraft maintenance technicians to work at Royal Air Force bases with BAE Systems and Royal Air Force personnel supporting the Typhoon and Tornado aircraft.
The effectiveness of BAE Systems’ apprenticeship programme has earned the company a Grade 1 – ‘outstanding’ by government education watchdog OFSTED. A report published last year said “learners gain exceptional technical and employment skills” on BAE Systems’ apprenticeships and “engineering success rates have improved consistently over the past three years and are well above the national average.”
The company invests around £84,000 in each apprentice over the course of their 3-year training programme. This investment pays off with a skilled, motivated and loyal workforce. A study of 200 apprentices who had joined BAE Systems in 2002 showed, seven years on, 95% were still employed by the company.
The apprentices achieve a NVQ level three upon completion. Many apprentices take up further study, such as HNC and HND qualifications, and BAE Systems typically supports over 20 apprentices each year to study for degrees in subjects such as systems engineering, electronics and mechanical engineering.
Whitehead added: “We are rightly proud of our apprentices and the hard work they do to help shape the future of the company. If a rebalanced economy with a thriving manufacturing sector is to become a reality in the UK, industry and government need to work together to encourage firms to take on apprentices and renew the pool of talent.”