At BAE Systems, we are in the fortunate position of having contracts to deliver some very long-term defence and security programmes. This helps us plan our business and the resources we need, making sure we have the right number of people with the right skills on board.
This includes science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) skills, which are critical. In fact, we describe our company as a “skills enterprise” because the delivery of the submarines, military aircraft, frigates and cyber systems we design and manufacture at more than 50 sites across the UK depends on specialist technical skills. We also talk about these skills being “sovereign”, as they provide the UK with an indigenous defence capability and therefore freedom of action in defence terms. We believe this helps maintain the UK’s interests and our position on the world stage.
One important way in which we retain this talent pipeline is through apprenticeships. Some of the skills we need, such as welding and pipe fitting, require unique expertise and can take many years to develop. Apprenticeships help us grow our own specialist technical skills. Currently, we are training more than 3,000 apprentices, the most at any time in our history. With a 95 per cent completion rate, our apprenticeships are highly sought after and we are proud to be rated an “outstanding training provider” by Ofsted.
Apprenticeships are a proven route to success, not just for organisations, but for apprentices themselves. They offer tremendous opportunities for people to progress their careers and become socially mobile. In fact, last year 27 per cent of our apprentice intake in England came from disadvantaged communities, and a significant number of our current executives began their career as apprentices with the company or at another engineering organisation.
In 2014 we decided to take this further by supporting an organisation established specifically to help young people who had fallen out of the education and employment system. Our involvement in this project, Movement to Work, has evolved into us providing around 100 work placements every year, which comprise a three-week programme of training and work experience.
Our support for Movement to Work has been so successful that we now routinely offer apprenticeships to some 30 young people completing the placements each year. In total we have provided 700 placements through the programme, with 420 young people securing full-time roles. Of these, 210 have been employed at BAE Systems, the majority starting apprenticeships.
The young people placed by Movement to Work have overwhelmingly demonstrated their capabilities, challenging existing thinking within BAE Systems. Diversity of thought is critical to the technologies we deliver. Giving opportunities to young people from a variety of backgrounds has been of enormous benefit.
Richard Hamer is education director at BAE Systems. For more information about careers with BAE Systems, visit: www.baesystems.com/ukcareers
For more information about offering work experience, visit: www.movementtowork.com