DEFENCE group BAE Systems has expanded its apprenticeship programme to recruit almost 400 young people this year – the highest number since the financial crisis.
The company, which attracted criticism from investors last year following a botched merger attempt with European peer EADS, plans to take on 387 engineering and business apprentices across its UK businesses.
The figure includes almost 50 roles at the group’s shipyards on the Clyde, where it is building the Royal Navy’s fleet of Type 45 destroyers.
BAE spends about £80,000 on training the average apprentice, and said that all the recruits will be given jobs at the end of their studies.
About 10 per cent of recruits will take part in the company’s five-year degree-level programme, with the remainder on three-year schemes. The firm had been taking on about 300 apprentices a year since 2008.
Managing director Nigel Whitehead said BAE’s commitment to the apprentice programme reflects the “sustainable position” of its UK business as well as the success of the programme in providing the company with a skilled workforce.
“We like to train people from an early age and find that the combination of on-the-job training and academic study, without debt, is a great motivator for our apprentices to stay with us,” he said.
The announcement is a welcome sign that the defence giant is building its UK workforce after recent fears that it would seek to cut jobs.
The group, which has an 88,000-strong global headcount including about 5,000 in Scotland, was thought to be looking for efficiency measures to protect its bottom line from the squeeze on defence budgets in the US and UK, which together account for more than 70 per cent of its sales.
And management was forced to issue assurances of the company’s good health after the proposed merger with EADS fell through in October, as some analysts suggested it could be broken up or sold.
However, recent comments from Prime Minister David Cameron that appeared to commit the UK to a £160 billion military procurement plan suggested that on this side of the Atlantic at least, the worst of the spending cuts were over.
The plan would include a replacement from Britain’s frigate fleet known as the Type 26 which could be built in Glasgow.
Also of benefit to BAE would be orders for new Typhoon and F-35 Lightning II combat aircraft and an eventual replacement to the Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines which carry the UK’s nuclear deterrent.
The company is taking on 144 apprentices at its submarine yard at Barrow-in-Furness, which is currently building the new Astute class hunter killer submarines.
The defence contractor, which already employs around 3,000 workers at yards at Scotstoun and Govan and is the UK’s largest employer of engineers, has hired 267 craft and technician apprentices in Scotland in the past five years – the latest intake will increase that number to more than 310.