“Great News Nigel, our bid for the Employer Ownership Pilot has been accepted.” These were the words from our company Education Director, signalling the start of a busy campaign to fulfil the expectations now required of our Preston Training School!
Within BAE Systems, we have always known the value of Apprenticeships, and are justifiably proud of the OFSTED “Outstanding” rating which our programmes received in our last inspection. So, the Employer ownership programme was a fantastic opportunity to make use of the spare capacity within the training school, not just to benefit ourselves and our direct supply chain organisations, but the Engineering and Manufacturing sector in the North West, as a whole.
So, how do you go about convincing small and medium size companies to take on an apprentice and have them trained by another company who is not a traditional training provider? Some companies may have already had apprentices, but not been happy with the outcome; for others it could be the additional administration required, and the necessary 12 weekly workplace assessments. We needed to start to help to remove some of the barriers, real or perceived.
The first step seemed an obvious one. Get our current apprentices to do the ‘selling’ for us. Working with SEMTA and the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) we contacted local companies and invited them to one of two open days held at the Preston Training School. This gave us the opportunity to present our offering directly to the companies, but more importantly for them to see the training school first hand and talk to our current first year apprentices.
Bearing in mind that the apprentices who would be doing the ‘selling job’ and fielding the questions from the company representatives, (quite often the Company owner and MD), had only been with BAE Systems for a number of weeks; you might think this was a risky strategy! Not at all. Having spent some time with this group of new Apprentices, including going to watch their team presentations at the end of a tiring week at “Outward Bound”, I had the utmost confidence, and I was proved right! They are genuinely enthusiastic about the programme they’re on, and their future prospects.
We place a lot of emphasis on professional behaviours, and taking personal ownership, so the apprentices themselves take great pride in showing people around their centre, and showing off the skills they are learning.
If apprenticeships are run well, you can see people develop in front of your eyes. A good apprenticeship programme isn’t just about the framework, it’s about giving individuals opportunities to develop themselves. We include a large number of ‘enrichment activities’ within the programme, many of which would be open to our ‘Overtraining’ apprentices during the first year which they spend full time with our own Apprentices in the school.
We like to think that we turn out really good people from our apprenticeship programme, and it really is an exciting opportunity for us to work with other Engineering and Manufacturing Businesses to promote Engineering, and to attract and develop our Engineers of the future.