Richard Hamer, Education Director at BAE Systems

Students who were due to take exams this year have had a unique struggle, facing uncertainty over their next steps. It is therefore crucial for young people to be made aware of the full range of options available to them – whether it’s university, apprenticeships, degree apprenticeships or entry into a full-time role.

Put simply, this is a significant moment in their development and it’s important to know which route fits each individual best. A more flexible approach to learning and equipping people with the tools, support and opportunities to train and upskill is absolutely key, as the Government recently announced with its expansion of post-18 education and training.

An alternative path

There is no escaping the difficulty of entering the job market at this moment, as young people today are facing a recession and an uncertain future. Despite this, there are still many good opportunities to consider and apprenticeships can serve as a great route into lifelong careers for young people, with stable employment, skills development and esteemed qualifications on offer.

In fact, MakeUK has noted a sharp surge in apprenticeship enquiries following the release of this year’s exam results, signalling fresh intent from school leavers hoping to get a foot in the door of their preferred industry and gain skills and knowledge through practical experience.

Apprenticeships offer paid on-the-job learning and teach practical skills best acquired through first-hand experience rather than a classroom setting. They allow the development of skills that are required for an individual’s chosen career, serving as a clear path to permanent future employment and do so without the burden of debt that traditional higher education can bring. This turbulent year has highlighted the importance of investing in apprentice opportunities for the UK’s school leavers that will make up tomorrow’s workforce.

Investing in young minds

It’s more important than ever that Government, industry and the education sector work together to help young people and adults gain the skills needed to work in sectors which will support our nation’s economic recovery.

Organisations that choose now to invest time and resources in opportunities for young people not only build an important, skilled workforce but also play a vital role in helping the UK avoid a skills crisis in the years to come. Apprenticeships are essential in equipping young people with the necessary skills to work in highly specialised and technical industries. They will continue to make an important contribution to the UK economy and its standing in international markets as a world leader across several high-tech industries. Both private and public sector bodies need to ensure that they are a viable and easily accessible option for those entering the world of work.

At BAE Systems, we are intent on delivering this level of investment. As a major employer of graduates and apprentices, our investment in skills provides an essential pipeline of talent that enables us to continue to deliver cutting-edge defence and security capabilities, essential to our national security. Over the next year we’ll welcome our highest ever intake of apprentices despite the pandemic. Our apprentice recruits will join different parts of the business including our air sector, electronic systems, maritime services and submarines, developing skills in engineering, design, project management and finance. Apprentices learn their trade from experienced professionals, equipping them with the knowledge, behaviours and practical skills needed for the very best start to their careers.

Of course, business investment in apprentices also includes ensuring apprenticeships are able to adapt to the current circumstances and potential future challenges. At the start of lockdown we swiftly expanded our virtual learning environment, ensuring that all of our 1,500 apprentices were able to continue their learning. With new processes and flexibility from our partners, we have been able to continue recruiting and deliver end point assessments on time, allowing apprentices to transition into the next stage of their career with us. It is up to us as providers to continue this work and minimise the disruption felt by our learners.

It’s vital that these opportunities are maintained and promoted to students and people of all ages, particularly as the current economic difficulty may see more adults trying their hands at a new career at different stages in their lives. Greater flexibility around education and career choices and the right support is vital to ensure young people and adults can emerge from their pressing situations stronger and ready to prosper.

It is the collective responsibility of the Government, the education sector and businesses to actively encourage students into the routes that best suit their situation, provide them with the opportunities and tools necessary to succeed and actively work to remove any barriers in their path. Whether through apprenticeships or other means, there is greater scope for further education than many realise. If we make an organised, shared effort to generate interest in these options, those affected by exam disruption or economic fragility will be in a far better position to bounce back stronger and it will open up fantastic opportunities for their future.

Richard Hamer, Education Director at BAE Systems

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