Royal Navy's First Sea Lord makes 'unashamed sales pitch' to schoolpupils to tackle engineer recruitment crisis

THE future head of Britain’s armed forces has made an ‘unashamed sales pitch’ to schoolchildren in Portsmouth in a bid to ‘desperately’ help boost the nation’s depleted stock of military engineers.

By Tom Cotterill
Monday, 18th October 2021, 5:47 pm
Updated Monday, 18th October 2021, 5:47 pm

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Tony Radakin made the statement during a visit to UTC Portsmouth, in Hilsea.

The top officer, who next month will become Britain’s senior most military commander, said the navy ‘and the nation’ needed more students like those at UTC to go into science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) jobs.

Speaking to more than 100 Year 11 students, the First Sea Lord said: ‘I will be honest, this is a sales pitch.

The First Sea Lord, Admiral Tony Radakin at the UTC, Portsmouth. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘You’re very special to us as an employer but you’re very special to the whole nation.

‘We need more young men and women like you who are taking technical subjects because the nation desperately needs more people to have those skills.’

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As previously reported, the Royal Navy has struggled to hire enough engineers and has been desperately attempting to figure out how to entice more sailors into technical trades.

As part of the Senior Service’s long-term ambitions to create a ‘recruitment pipeline’, the navy has supported the development of university technical colleges nationwide and has particularly close ties with Portsmouth’s site.

But the First Sea Lord said the navy was going further still, now offering lucrative apprenticeships to those over 18, with a starting salary of £33,000.

And steps to plug the recruitment gaps were showing signs of narrowing, with the navy recruitment up ‘30 per cent’ over the last two years, he said.

But the First Sea Lord added: ‘The Royal Navy, rather like the whole nation, needs young men and women that are interested in engineering and the great stem skills that this UTC represents.’

Speaking of the ties with UTC Portsmouth, Adm Radakin said: ‘It’s good for Portsmouth, it’s good for the Royal Navy – and we think it’s good for the whole nation.’

As part of his day in the college, the First Sea Lord was given a tour of the institution, seeing robotics, science and technology classes in action.

One of the classes on display to visitors included a Year 13 computer science lesson, which is in the middle of the 13-week course to design a new handheld gaming console.

The project, supported by UTC partners at the NHS and BAE Systems, will culminate in a prototype being developed and used at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham.

Ryan Yates, a graduate design engineer at BAE Systems who is leading the scheme, said: ‘This is promising for the future.

‘One thing we really wanted was to give the students something that was tangible and real. It’s not something that will just go straight in the bin.’

Clare Weller, a senior biomedical scientist at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, added: ‘This is new for Portsmouth

‘When Ryan came up with the idea, I approached paediatrics and they jumped on it.

‘We have struggled to engage with those younger patients. With the pandemic we have had to remove a lot of our entertainment. So this is great for us. We’re actually going to have a device out of this that we can use.’

Year 13 Aryan Ghosh, 17, is working with pals Oliver Knight, 17, and Matthew Such, 17, to develop a games console.

He said: ‘This is just a great experience. I’ve loved it.’

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