Phillipa Wilson

The company announced its recruitment drive at the start of National Apprentice Week which takes place from 7 - 11 February 2011.

With more than 1000 apprentices in training across the company’s UK sites at any one time, BAE Systems runs one of the UK’s largest training schemes. Apprentices have the opportunity to work on some of the most complex and large-scale engineering programmes in the country including the Astute attack submarine, the Typhoon aircraft programme and the Type 45 anti-aircraft destroyer. Ninety-five per cent of the company’s apprentices are undertaking engineering training.

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 of 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. To date the company has trained 78 apprentices at Robin Hood airport.

The effectiveness of BAE Systems’ apprenticeship programme has also earned it 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 three 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.

Mr 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.”

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. BAE Systems is also a member of the new Technician Council and is working to support it and initiatives to raise the status of high skill level apprenticeships.

Through its Skills 2020 programme, BAE Systems invests more than £50M per annum in the UK in education and schools activity, university partnerships and training and development for employees. Skills 2020 represents BAE Systems' commitment to ensuring it has the right skills to remain competitive and operate successfully in the UK over the next decade, into 2020 and beyond.

The company is also committed to encouraging young people to take an interest in engineering, science, technology and maths and to consider a future career in these areas.