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With youth unemployment hitting the headlines again, employers are being called to do more to support young people by providing opportunities for them to get into the world of work. Although I fully support the drive to get young people into employment, I think these arguments miss the point. Yes, when a business hires a young person it is hugely beneficial to that individual, but it also brings significant business benefits that must not be overlooked. At BAE Systems we are extremely proud to employ apprentices and reliant on them to help maintain our skills base. Some of our most senior business leaders began as apprentices, a fact that demonstrates how an apprenticeship can be an excellent career choice. We have also now become part of the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) badge scheme which has been launched to give recognition to businesses that employ apprentices. As a leading global defence, security and aerospace company in a highly competitive environment, a highly skilled workforce is business critical. BAE Systems is reliant on maintaining a technological edge to deliver the most advanced jet aircraft, submarines, warships and armoured vehicles. It is our people who deliver that technological edge. In the UK our apprenticeship programme has around1,100 people employed on training programmes at any one time. The apprentice training programmes we offer include engineering and manufacturing skills or business administration and information technology. Our apprentices have a unique experience as they get to work on the very newest defence equipment programmes including Eurofighter Typhoon, the Astute Submarine and the Type 45 warship. One such apprentice is Rachael Hoyle, who was awarded Advanced Apprentice of the Year in the UK Learning and Skills Council’s Apprenticeship Awards. Rachael completed an Advanced Apprenticeship in Aerospace Engineering and has now secured a full-time position with BAE Systems in the Structural Engineering department, one of her work placements as an apprentice. She is now working towards a Bachelor of Engineering degree at Manchester Metropolitan University. We believe that one of the main reasons that businesses are reluctant to take on apprentices is the common belief that they are costly to train. Yet, an independent study we commissioned showed that it costs us £73,000 to train an apprentice and that once trained, each of our apprentices contributes £84,000 of added value to the business every year. So investing in apprentices really does make good business sense. Plus we know that our investment in apprentices creates a skilled, motivated and loyal workforce – a study of 200 apprentices employed in our military aircraft business since 2002 showed that, seven years on, 95% are still with the company. Recently released figures from the NAS have also shown that over 80% of British consumers are more likely to use a business if it offers apprenticeships, with a further 94% saying that they think it is important for companies to support young people through such schemes in times of recession. These statistics support the business case for companies across the UK to consider taking on apprentices to benefit their bottom line. Although the traditional route of higher education is still popular with many school leavers, apprenticeship schemes like those offered by BAE Systems, are no less academic. Our apprentices undertake rigorous study for a recognised qualification alongside their on the job training. Programmes encompass both the theoretical and practical insight needed by all individuals to become an expert in their chosen career path. We recruit bright, keen and talented individuals with a mindset of wanting to challenge things and make a difference to how we work. With massive competition for places we are able to recruit applicants of the highest standard who bring new ideas and a fresh outlook to all aspects of the business. Speaking from my own experience, I would urge all employers to consider the benefits of hiring apprentices. Apprenticeship schemes are not just a way for businesses to make themselves feel good, they can make a real difference to meeting skills requirements, overall productivity and profitability whilst offering much needed opportunities for young job seekers. Nigel Whitehead, Group Managing Director at BAE Systems
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