Mr Olver made his comments as BAE Systems launched the findings of its UK skills review at the Royal Academy of Engineering’s premises in London. The resulting Skills 2020 strategy sets out the action the company needs to take to operate successfully over the next decade, into 2020 and beyond. Skills 2020 will ensure the Company’s UK business develops, nurtures and retains the skills of its people.

The Company’s skills strategy document, Delivering Skills for the Future, outlines the results of the review commissioned in autumn 2009 by Cambridge University’s Institute for Manufacturing. It gives high-level insight into the views of senior leaders in BAE Systems, its customers and peer companies.

Delivering Skills for the Future recognises the way in which the procurement of defence products and services used by the armed forces has changed. The armed forces require the latest technology delivered with agility, speed and cost-effectiveness. As a result, BAE Systems will prioritise the need to develop more people with the skills to work side-by-side with the armed forces, on an international basis and across traditional engineering disciplines.

A key element of BAE Systems’ Skills 2020 strategy is to encourage ‘through-career’ skills development. This approach begins with encouraging young people to consider a career in engineering whilst at school, to providing continuous training for those in employment with the Company, and concludes with advice for employees reaching retirement age. To ensure the ‘talent pipeline’ is maintained, the approach demands concerted action in promoting science, technology, engineering and maths in schools, colleges and universities.

Speaking at today’s launch, Mr Olver warned: “Without action, the UK’s widening skills gap will have become an irreversible gulf. We need an informed debate and close collaboration to address the UK’s engineering and manufacturing skills needs. It is essential that companies continue to invest in the skills of their people.”

John Hayes MP, Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning said: “The new Government is committed to developing a clear path for the acquisition of technical skills at the highest level. I commend BAE Systems for its work with a range of partners to ensure that the training we provide matches what businesses want.”

BAE Systems Group Managing Director, Nigel Whitehead said: “Skills development has always been important for us. We invest more than £50 million per annum in supporting skills and education activity in the UK.”

The Skills 2020 launch event was the first in a series hosted by BAE Systems to stimulate a wider discussion of the UK’s skills issues.

About BAE Systems
BAE Systems is a global defence, security and aerospace company with approximately 107,000 employees worldwide. The Company delivers a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, security, information technology solutions and customer support services. In 2009 BAE Systems reported sales of £22.4 billion (US$ 36.2 billion).

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Editor’s Notes

1. Copies of the Skills 2020 strategy document can be found at
2. The CBI’s report Ready to grow: business priorities for education and skills May 2010 stated that 45% of employers are currently having difficulty recruiting STEM-skills staff with 59% of firms expecting difficulty in the next three years.
3. The UK Commission for Employment and Skills’ report, Ambition 2020 May 2009, forecast that based on current trends, the UK is set to slide by 2020 from number 18 among OECD countries to 21st on intermediate skills
4. The Royal Academy of Engineering’s report Pioneering Engineering Education 2008 highlighted the specific shortage of skilled engineers advising that although the numbers in higher education has grown by 60% in the years from 1998 to 2008, the number of students taking engineering degrees has remained static.