The Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has announced a £400m investment in the Dreadnought nuclear-armed submarine programme at the unveiling of a new £25m BAE Systems training academy in Barrow-in-Furness.
The Defence Secretary said the investment will help the UK to combat the “raft of intensifying threats” facing the world and also protect the thousands of local jobs that are reliant on the defence sector.
The Defence Secretary’s comments came at the opening of the new £25m BAE Systems training academy in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, which is expected to provide bespoke training for almost 9,000 people, including nearly 800 apprentices.
The Academy for Skills and Knowledge is a 90,000 sqft training academy that was built to develop the engineering skills required to design, build and deliver submarine programmes to the Royal Navy.
It offers training in mechanical and electrical skills, and features 10 workshops, 30 classrooms, and scale-model sized submarine units. It also features a virtual reality (VR) training suite that will allow its staff to fine-tune their product in a simulated environment.
The academy complements the already strong defence industry in the town and region. The announcement will safeguard at least 8,000 jobs in the town. Regionally, BAE Systems’ submarine business reportedly supports around one in 20 jobs.
Nationally, the company’s total GVA contribution to UK GDP was £11.1bn in 2016.
Cliff Robson, managing director of BAE Systems Submarines, commented that the investment was great news for the region’s strong manufacturing and defence sectors.
He noted: “Our investment in skills will not only ensure we have a pipeline of world-class talent available to deliver our complex programmes, but will also positively contribute to the economic prosperity of the region and the UK’s engineering industry.”
“The new academy will give our current and future workforce access to the very latest in learning and development, demonstrating our lasting commitment not just to our current employees but to those who will join our company in years to come.”
The new academy is the second of its sort to be opened by BAE Systems in the North West region. The first Academy for Skills and Knowledge was opened in the village of Samlesbury, Lancashire in 2016. The £15.6m academy supports BAE Systems’ Air business, and helps produce the Eurofighter Typhoon and F-35 Lightning II planes.
The announcement by the Defence Secretary came on the same day Damian Hinds declared his plans to get more people into highly-paid skilled jobs like engineering and manufacturing. In that Education Secretarya speech in Battersea, the Education Secretary blamed Britain’s poor productivity levels on “technical education snobs” who perceive vocational courses to be a second-class degree.
Hinds outlined proposals over the new T-Level courses, which are due to commence from 2020. He also announced that Skills Advisory Panels – local partnerships between public and private sector employers, local authorities and colleges and universities – will receive £75,000 each to understand the skills needs of the local economy.
Reporting by Harry Wise