Make it in Great Britain Industry Champion – Nigel Whitehead

Nigel Whitehead

Group Managing Director, BAE Systems

With over 18,000 engineers in the UK, BAE Systems is the biggest employer of engineers in the UK and is committed to ensuring the UK retains its technological lead and engineering capability. With an eye to the future, BAE Systems launched its Skills 2020 programme in July 2010. Skills 2020 will help to ensure the Company has the skills to compete successfully into the next decade and beyond.

Currently the company invests over £83m per annum in UK education, training and skills-related activities, including work experience programmes and an exciting theatre show for young people which showcases engineering and will reach more than 250 schools this year.

BAE Systems in the UK also trains more than 1,000 apprentices at any one time and works with 30 UK universities. The Company uses a number of innovative projects to try and engage more people in engineering. For example a five-year £1.5M technology partnership has provided engineering support to over 20 different Olympic sports including wheelchair racing, eventing, sailing, taekwondo, bob-skeleton and speed skating.

In addition to its support for the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, BAE Systems is proud to work with the Royal Academy’s Engineering Engagement Project, helping to enable investment in a range of education activities. This has ranged from training for school Science and Engineering Ambassadors to the production of high quality education resources for teachers and Ambassadors to give young people a practical insight into engineering.

How has your company engaged with young people and the community to improve the image of manufacturing?

It’s crucial for the UK’s economic wellbeing that more young people choose careers in science, engineering, technology and maths.”

Our apprenticeship programme creates a pipeline of exceptionally talented young engineers who are critical to the long term future of BAE Systems. In tough economic times it is even more important that businesses plan for the long term and continue to invest in skills and developing talent in the workplace.

What more needs to be done to increase interest in manufacturing and engineering?

We know that an additional 514,000 science and technology professionals will be needed in the UK by 2017 yet almost half of 7 -11 year olds surveyed described a career in engineering as ‘boring’.

I’m convinced that if industry, schools and the Government continue to work together to change their perception, all our young people, whatever their backgrounds, could benefit from learning more about science, technology, engineering and maths and the exciting career opportunities these subjects offer.