BAE Systems (Operations) Ltd

group of Erasmus+ earners standing in a row in Germany with BAE staff

“I was awarded the Royal Academy of Engineering Rising Star Award as well as the UK National Apprentice Champion award – the exchange programme contributed to the apprentice I was and the engineer I am today.”

Aerospace is an important industry for the UK supporting more than 230,000 jobs and generating more than £30 billion a year for the economy. To maintain the UK’s position at the forefront of global manufacturing, a highly-skilled workforce is required ready to seize the opportunities of the future. Through European placements funded through Erasmus+, BAE Systems apprentices have excelled in their careers and been professionally recognised for their outstanding achievements.

Enhancing the skills of apprentices

Through the vocational education and training Mobility project, The Apprentice Exchange, apprentices take part in an 18-day mobility exchange. Participants were selected to work and train on the manufacturing and assembly of the Eurofighter aircraft in Manching, near Munich, Germany. All participating apprentices were in the second year of their three-and-a-half year Advanced Apprenticeship level 3 programme in either aeronautical engineering or business and administration. The Apprentice Exchange project follows a long history of coordinated work exchanges, including mobility projects funded under the predecessor Leonardo EU programme.

Award-winning apprentices: Jenny’s story

As a 19-year-old apprentice, Jenny wasn’t sure what to expect when she took part in her exchange to Germany.  She explained the programme pushed her out of her comfort zone, to represent the company professionally and handle extra responsibility. She said experiencing a different workplace gave her a better appreciation of how large organisations are structured and how apprentice and skill training is important across all sectors. Seven years later, as a product delivery lead at BAE Systems, she explained it made her the engineer she is today.

“The scheme allowed me to understand the aerospace industry from a more diverse perspective, not just focussing on the manufacturing, but how we interact and do business with either partner companies or suppliers. It expanded my skills by learning either new skills, or developing ones I already had – as well as teaching me how to use them in different situations. The lessons I learnt have allowed me to progress to where I am today as a delivery leader in a new technology area.

“It allowed me to become a better-rounded engineer appreciating all aspects of the engineering life cycle. I was awarded the Royal Academy of Engineering Rising Star Award as well as the UK National Apprentice Champion award – the exchange programme contributed to the apprentice I became and the engineer I am now today.”

As a product delivery lead at BAE Systems the exchange made me the engineer I am today - Jenny

Benefits for business

John Connor, a Technical Training Coordinator at BAE Systems, has more than 40 years’ experience in the field of engineering and delivered vocational training to hundreds of advanced apprentices in technical, business and craft areas. Training co-ordinator John explained the biggest benefit to apprentices is the exposure to different methods of aircraft design and manufacture and experiencing new working cultures. He said apprentices become more mobile for working opportunities which may arise in BAE Systems partner companies, including those in Europe, the United States and the Middle East. Although some of the apprentices have travelled before others may never have left the country.

For the business John said the biggest benefit was the boosted confidence and enhanced communication skills the apprentices return to the UK with. They are able to bring best practice from German sites back to BAE Systems and have direct contact with senior management from partner companies during the placement.

...progressing to the next grade can take up to ten years – I have seen some Erasmus+ apprentices achieve this in two - John Connor 

He added: “There are more than half-a-dozen apprentices who have taken part in the exchange who are now supervisors and managers in the business. It is the contact with senior managers who back this scheme and the networking opportunities while they are there which helps them to climb the ladder.

 “Apprentices normally achieve a Grade D pay grade at the end of their apprenticeship and progressing to the next grade can take up to ten years – I have seen some apprentices achieve this in two. I believe this has been as a result of participating in the exchange and taking full advantage of the Erasmus+ opportunity."

By taking part in the Erasmus+ funded Mobility project, the apprentices learn about how different engineering companies operate and discover the difference in their manufacturing methods and equipment, work ethics and practices. Apprentices improve their skill and knowledge base of the European aircraft industry and their own professional competencies, as part of completing their learning and development programme to be recorded in their personal development records.

Participants also have the opportunity to improve their German language skills in a work and social environment. They receive more than 60 hours of language lessons which John explained all linked to the confidence of the apprentices, helps them develop in their future careers.

The learning outcomes of participants are recognised with a Europass CV certificate. John said: “The experience has opened apprentices’ eyes to the opportunities and increased their confidence and understanding of the products we produce, with the ability and confidence to work anywhere in the world.” All participants reported that the quality of training content and the quality of learning and teaching methods were either good or very good. The mobility has also resulted in stronger working partnerships with German co-ordinators. 

Notes to editors

  1. The Erasmus+ UK National Agency is a partnership between the British Council and Ecorys UK
  2. For more information on Erasmus+ funding in England 2014-2016 download our factsheet (983 KB)
  3. Please email us for any further information including copies of images: [email protected] 

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