BAE reveals record-breaking apprenticeship scheme

DEFENCE giant BAE Systems has been criticised by a former council leader for the number of new apprenticeships on offer in Portsmouth.

BAE staff working on the forthcoming aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales while it was being constructed in Portsmouth
BAE staff working on the forthcoming aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales while it was being constructed in Portsmouth

It comes as the company revealed it would be taking on more than 680 new apprentices in a nationwide recruitment drive announced by the firm this year.

But most of these roles – some 458 – are going to the north west of England, with 348 positions on offer at the organisation’s submarine design and manufacturing site in Barrow

However, out of the hundreds roles on offer, Portsmouth will only see a few dozen, with fewer than 80 maritime positions being split between the city and three other areas.

Former Portsmouth City Council leader, councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson welcomed BAE’s commitment to training new apprentices.

But he was critical of how many new roles would actually be created in the city.

‘There’s just 78 – that’s split between Portsmouth, Cowes, Frimley and New Malden,’ said the Liberal Democrat boss.

‘So we still don’t know how many of these roles will be coming to Portsmouth.’

He added: ‘There would have been many, many more if the prime minister had not decided to move shipbuilding out of Portsmouth and up to Scotland.

‘So there’s fewer young people able to learn new skills here and get quality jobs.

‘I’d like to see just how many of these roles will actually go into shipbuilding and will be based within the dockyard.’

The announcement of the new apprenticeships is part of BAE Systems’ ongoing pledge to nurture talent and high-end skills in the UK.

Within the latest drive, the firm will be taking on a record number of higher or degree-level apprentices – some 142 in total.

The roles will be split between the corporation’s various bases.

In Humberside, 51 apprentices will be based at BAE’s aircraft maintenance academy.

The schemes offer vocational experience as well as training up to degree and masters level, providing apprentices with the opportunity of full-time employment with a recognised qualification at the end of their training.

One of those who has already taken on the challenge was Sophie Spurge.

The 25-year-old, of North End, is in her third year of the five-year project management higher apprenticeship.

She said it was the best decision she has ever made and is urging other young people to follow in her footsteps.

‘It’s an exciting time at the moment with the build-up of HMS Queen Elizabeth arriving,’ added the former Admiral Lord Nelson School pupil.

BAE Systems’ apprenticeship scheme is open for applications until the end of February.

Nigel Whitehead, group managing director, programmes and support at BAE said the firm was ‘committed to developing skills’, adding he took ‘great pride’ in the record number of higher-level apprenticeships on offer this year and introduction of master-level degrees for existing staff.