DEFENCE giant BAE Systems is to recruit a record 568 apprentices in 2014 to meet what it calls “the largest workload for two decades”.
The firm will take on 181 more people than it did this year using the government-backed scheme, as it prepares to start work on the next generation of nuclear submarines.
The announcement comes less than two months after the defence contractor caused a political storm when it cut almost 2,000 jobs, including hundreds in Glasgow.
In Scotland, 62 apprentices are being sought for BAE’s shipbuilding business on the Clyde, and a further three will join its regional aircraft business in Prestwick in Ayrshire.
Managing director Nigel Whitehead said: “Apprentices are a vital part of our talent pool.
“Our additional intake of apprentices this year reflects workload requirements at the submarines business but the number also demonstrates the fantastic contribution and value that apprenticeships bring to BAE Systems.
“This is a win-win situation for our apprentices, our company and the wider economy.”
More than half of the roles are at a submarine yard in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, where BAE is building seven Astute class attack submarines for the Royal Navy and designing a successor to the UK’s nuclear deterrent system.
Each Astute class sub weighs 7,000 tonnes and costs between £747 million and £1.2 billion to build.
Ninety-four apprentices will design and build military aircraft in Lancashire and Yorkshire, with 48 joining the firm’s aircraft maintenance academy in Doncaster, while 100 will join shipbuilding and maintenance teams in Portsmouth and Glasgow.
Other roles will go to the company’s electronics arm in Rochester, its combat vehicles station in Telford, and munitions factories in Cheshire, Tyneside and South Wales.
The recruits will arrive despite recent setbacks for the firm. In November BAE announced a total of 1,775 shipbuilding jobs were to go across Britain, cutting 940 staff at Portsmouth and another 835 jobs in Glasgow, Rosyth in Fife, and Filton, near Bristol.
The cuts provoked a political storm amid claims the Clyde bases had been spared at the expense of Portsmouth because of the upcoming Scottish independence referendum.
It was also claimed the move allowed UK ministers to continue to exert political pressure by holding out the prospect of a boost to the Clyde to build 13 Type-26 frigates – and secure a long-term future – but only if Scotland votes to stay with the Union in next year’s poll.
Earlier this month, BAE told investors that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had pulled out of talks over a defence order which could have been worth as much as $10bn (£6.1bn).
The deal, which would have included up to 60 Typhoon aircraft, had been under discussion with the Middle Eastern government for several months.
In the same announcement, BAE Systems also said negotiations with Saudi Arabia regarding pricing of a multi-billion pound agreement to supply Typhoons were ongoing.
However, BAE says half the senior executives in its military aircraft wing – which employs 15,000 of its 32,000 UK staff – found their feet as apprentices.