Defence giant BAE Systems yesterday reopened its skills development centre inside Portsmouth Naval Base’s newly-named Jutland Building after the site’s multimillion-pound makeover.
The facility is home to 185 apprentices who are all learning the vital skills that will transform them into the nation’s engineers of the future.
Many of those working inside the centre will turn their hand to working on the Royal Navy’s fleet of warships or maintaining the city’s naval base.
Some will work on the navy’s two new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers – the first of which will arrive in Portsmouth early next year.
Joseph Stretton, 19, of Portsmouth, is a second-year electrical apprentice.
Once he completes his four-year course he hopes to work on the dockyard’s electrical systems – which could include maintaining the colossal generator that will help power the new carriers when they are docked.
He said: ‘With a job like this you feel like you’re part of something bigger – you’re looking after the Royal Navy’s ships. To say you could be looking after something like the new aircraft carrier would be amazing.’
Joe Catcheside, 21, of Portsmouth, is in his third year as a fabrication apprentice and will be following in his brothers’ footsteps. He said: ‘They both worked in the dockyard and it was something that really interested me.
‘The workshop is so much better now though. There’s a lot more machinery and things are in a far better condition.’
Inside the building there is an array of work desks and state-of-the-art training equipment, from welding simulators and a mock-up of a ship’s bridge to 3D printers and new classrooms.
The centre is designed to give students the most realistic experience of what it would be like to repair sections of a ship or broken electrical cabling.
Second Sea Lord, Vice-Admiral Jonathan Woodcock, toured the facility.
He said: ‘The technical skills shortfall in the UK is significant. We are working together with the government to address the critical skills shortage. So these facilities are fundamental to us.’
Speaking of the aircraft carriers, he added: ‘It’s an exciting time and it will be these young technicians whose entire working careers will be based around delivering those ships.
‘The opportunity now is huge and the requirement is enormous.’
Mike Howarth, managing director of BAE’s maritime services, said it was critical BAE worked with the navy to support the engineers of tomorrow.
He added: ‘This is a fantastic facility. The £2.4m investment from BAE was all about improving the environment and the training facilities for the apprentices we’re working with.’