Future Skills
for our UK business


A more diverse, inclusive and flexible workplace 

Achieving a diverse, inclusive and flexible workplace is one of BAE Systems’ six guiding principles for the development of future skills.
BAE Systems and others must create a more attractive place to work by reflecting different working preferences and lifestyles – helping all employees be themselves and perform at their best.

We are already seeing a more flexible and inclusive working. Dave Nuttall, HR Director, Future Combat Air Systems, BAE Systems Air, says: “We are looking to experiment with new ways of working... more flexible hours, collaborating nationally, internationally and working further afield will become our norm.”

Natalie Sigona, Head of Diversity and Inclusion, BAE Systems, says: “We need introverts, extroverts, left brain thinkers, right brain thinkers, young minds, experienced minds and so on; true diversity in personality, attitude and approach. Our sector also works hard to attract people from minority groups. That includes men and women with different needs and disabilities, people from the LGBTQ+ [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning and Others] community and people with black, Asian and multi-ethnicity [BAME] backgrounds.

“We should not expect people with difference to conform to the mainstream. In the past anyone with autism or Asperger syndrome may have had to adapt to fit. We need to turn things on their head by finding ways to include and embrace any kind of difference.” 

OutLinkUK is our UK-wide LGBTQ+ group founded by employees for employees. It works with the company to address specific LGBTQ+ issues.

We are also improving the number of young women recruited, particularly on to apprenticeships and graduate programmes. In 2018, an above-sector average 26.3 per cent of apprentices and 28 per cent of graduates were female. That year, 3.7 per cent of apprentices and 23 per cent of graduates were from BAME backgrounds. In 2018, 15 per cent of apprentices had a disability or learning need and, in 2017, 29 per cent came from the 20 poorest wards in England.


Retraining and upskilling

Retraining and upskilling is one of BAE Systems’ six guiding principles for the development of future skills.

We must work with our employees to understand our existing capabilities and future skills requirements, and to ensure continuous professional development.

For the next decade, most of those forming the workforce are already in work. The OECD states that 32 per cent of jobs will change radically because of automation in the next 15 to 20 years i. Yet a third of UK businesses do not offer any work-based training ii.

Engineering skills will remain basic for our sector but roles will change. This concerns many people. Automation, including cobotics (human-robot collaboration), will reduce repetitive tasks, but we see considerable opportunities for new roles such as additive layer manufacturing (3D printing). Human judgment and creativity will always be required. Our workplace will not become entirely mechanised.
At BAE Systems we identify our core needs and cross-reference these with our employees’ capabilities to identify where retraining is needed. Dave Nuttall, HR Director, Future Combat Air Systems, BAE Systems Air, says: “We’ve retrained people in-house to become systems engineers or structural engineers so we have a good track record of upskilling.” 

We communicate technological-driven change to all our people and help employees take control of their personal development. Our union representatives say we must teach employees the benefits of new skills and working practices and show how implementing technology will help the company attract new work.
Andrew Smith, Employee Relations Director, BAE Systems, says: “Engaging employees and working effectively with their trade union will be critical.”
Partnerships with existing training providers and academia are fundamental. Since 2015 we have retrained employees at the RJ Mitchell Academy in Humberside for second careers in aircraft maintenance. Successful candidates work at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire or overseas for BAE Systems.

 i] The Future of Work: OECD Employment Outlook 2019, published by OECD, April 2019
 ii] UK employer skills survey 2017, published by Government Digital Service, August 2018

Investing in digital, soft and behavioural skills

Investing in digital, soft and behavioural skills is one of BAE Systems’ six guiding principles for the development of future skills.
Soft skills are a top priority to help our workforce meet the needs of our military and commercial customers, and capitalise on the fourth industrial revolution. 
As advanced robotics, automation and AI take on routine work, staff will have to apply the principles of the technological revolution. Mental dexterity, and being responsive and adaptable is vital.
This will mean finding and investing in people who can solve complex problems with critical thinking and creativity. In education, these needs must form the bedrock on which to overlay the technical and STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths] curriculum. 
Dr Rhys Morgan, Director of Education at the Royal Academy of Engineering, says: “We need to nurture the skills that artificial intelligence systems can’t replicate – how humans interface with machines for example. Here we creative thinkers can play a key role.”
Donna Edwards is Programme Director of the Made Smarter North West pilot programme, which trains and supports SMEs adopting new technologies. She believes companies will need these soft skills as digital skills evolve. “It is no longer viable that we see technical and soft skills as separate paths,” she says. “They are different sides of the same coin.”
Is there room for more lateral thinking when recruiting? Could aptitude for language or music translate into critical thinking? Liz Pollard, HR Director for Applied Intelligence, BAE Systems, thinks so: “The ability to innovate and improve is essential to success, with problem solving and creative thought valued as highly as technical capability in new recruits.”
Social skills will help partnerships and cross-cultural collaboration, which are increasingly prominent in the sectors in which BAE Systems works. We can build interpersonal skills by encouraging staff to join education outreach and STEM Ambassador programmes. 
Employers must give employees broader opportunities to move across organisations, experience different disciplines and consider new ways to work. 
Explore our other guiding skills for the development of future skills by downloading the full report here.


Improving perception of STEM subjects and careers

Improving the perception of STEM and promoting STEAM is one of BAE Systems’ six guiding principles for the development of future skills.
We must consider how to incorporate the design and problem-solving elements of arts subjects in more traditional STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers, in a joint programme with government, education, professional bodies and fellow employers.

Our sector does not always appeal to young people – particularly young women – so we must communicate the rich variety of technology careers available. The only way to do this is by partnering with educators and government to alter perceptions of STEM careers among teachers and parents.
We must reassure young people that their skills are relevant to our sector. Multi-tasking in gaming, problem-solving and design skills found in arts subjects, for example, are not usually considered in discussions about traditional engineering skillsets.

With the RAF and Royal Navy, BAE Systems takes its schools roadshow to 420 schools a year reaching more than 100,000 pupils. We meet tens of thousands of children, parents and teachers at science fairs and up to 500 pupils every year complete work experience within BAE Systems. We work with organisations such as STEM Learning to give science teachers a taste of industry.
“Employers need to work with education providers to ensure teachers and tutors have a better knowledge of industry,” says Dr Rhys Morgan, Director of Education at the Royal Academy of Engineering. He suggests a new hybrid industry-teaching role and year-long industry placements for teachers.
We also support efforts to ensure that arts subjects are considered in the teaching and understanding of STEM. The STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and maths) movement is growing steadily. 
We are liaising with the Department for Education to develop the engineering T Level, the new vocationally based alternative to A Levels. We work with five important universities to collaborate on technology and engineering developments and spent £9 million in UK universities and £4 million in UK colleges in 2018.


Championing vocational training and apprenticeships

Championing vocational training and apprenticeships is one of BAE Systems’ six guiding principles for the development of future skills.
We must support government attempts to improve vocational training and make sure the Apprentice Levy works effectively.

In the decade to 2024, 1.24 million graduate and technician roles will arise, according to EngineeringUK’s 2018 report . The defence, aerospace and security sector must continue to develop its own talent through apprenticeships as well as collaboration with universities.
The growth of apprenticeships is welcome, but maintaining high standards is critical. BAE Systems works closely with partners to develop new Degree Apprenticeship Standards through our Apprenticeship Trailblazer Groups. Collaborations are similar to those in place with Blackpool & Fylde College and Lancaster University in delivering an Aerospace Engineer Standard.
We have also been instrumental in helping government strengthen the Apprenticeship Levy so that it best encourages greater take-up and improves the training on offer.
Key potential improvements include better support for SMEs to employ apprentices; pooling unspent levy funds so large employers can help SMEs; addressing specific digital skills needs; and extending the life of Apprenticeship Levy funds.

This year we have a record 3,000 young people in training in our UK business. We will recruit about 700 apprentices and 300 graduates. We have invested more than £50 million in training academies to introduce apprentices to new technologies.

Many of our young colleagues encourage others to consider engineering careers. Andrew Smith, Employee Relations Director, BAE Systems, says: “There is an opportunity to harness the enthusiasm of young people and their interest in technology... to help school-age people understand the breadth and variety of technology-based careers. We need to help furnish young people not only with the skills required for today’s jobs but also with those that will allow them to adapt over the course of a more agile career path.”


Future skills for our UK business. (PDF 1.4Mb)
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Kate Watcham
Head of Strategic Communications
Manages UK thought leadership

+44 (0) 7793 420731