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Sector Experience

Recruitment Services

BAE Systems | Time With A Top Employer

by Jessica Sinclair

We sat down with Mark Donnelly, Group Apprenticeship and Skills Manager, to get his take on what makes a successful apprenticeship programme and find out more about BAE Systems' award-winning activities.

What value do apprentices bring to your business?

Apprentices are absolutely crucial for our business because they are a critical pipeline of talent to come through our workforce. Generally, there is an ageing talent profile within engineering businesses, so growing our own talent through apprenticeships is vital. Apprentices also bring new ideas and creativity. You can't buy in some of the scarce skills we need - such as nuclear engineering, systems engineering, or aerospace engineering; you have to build that from within your business.

By the time the apprentices have completed the typical 3-4 years of the apprenticeship, they have usually already given back half of their cost. The results of our Oxford Economics Report highlighted how much contribution in terms of GDP an individual from BAE Systems contributes - we have seen the asset apprentices are to our workforce once they have been fully trained.

You have been awarded the NAS Macro Employer of the Year Award 2018. How much of a challenge is it to run a successful apprenticeship programme?

At the very basic level, it is easy to have an apprenticeship programme - but it is anything but easy to have a successful apprenticeship programme. The challenge lies in making sure the apprentices are really valued from minute one: they need to be supported with both the academic and vocational learning that they are undertaking. Equally, they need to feel as if they are a valued employee of the workforce in the same way as everyone else within BAE Systems. There is a blend between making sure the programme delivers what it needs to be while ensuring the individual feels that they are a part of the culture.

What are your top tips for creating a programme that the learners value so much?

In terms of the programme, we make sure that there are a wide variety of of enrichment opportunities for the apprentices. This ranges from a robust induction where apprentices meet lots of senior leaders, to experiences that foster team building and develop soft skills. And throughout the lifespan of the apprenticeship, they have opportunities to get involved in charitable work, including work in schools to help inspire the next generation through STEM activities. We also have an Apprentice Innovation Challenge - a cross-site initiative that helps to support injured service personnel at Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

It's about combining great training that leads to recognisable qualifications.

What are your top tips for setting up creating a successful programme if you don't have one established already?

First of all, analyse what the requirement is: what is the demand from within the business; what are the shortfalls where apprenticeships can play a key part? There is no point doing an apprenticeship programme because it feels like the right thing to do - it's got to have a business anchor point. Once you have identified this, it's about looking at workforce development and the future talent pipeline to identify how many individuals you will need across the next five to ten years in these roles. Having this as a blueprint helps you know and explain why you are doing what you're doing.

Then, decide whether you want to down the employer provider route (this puts you totally in control of your own programme but takes investment and so would usually only make sense with large numbers), or if you will go through a tender process to identify a main provider to work with. they would partner with you to create the programmes that you need to math your culture and your expectations of the apprentices, tailored to your business. There is no right or wrong answer - it is about what is right for you as a business.

You won the NAS Recruitment Excellence Award 2018. Do you have any tips or techniques on how to find, attract and recruit the right people?

The important thing is that we really want to appeal to everybody. We are a business that is based across the UK in al four corners of the country. It is important for us to reflect the UK population within our workforce demographic. When we're trying to recruit, it is about encouraging individuals from all different types of backgrounds and highlighting how these differences are strengths. We have an approach that says 'recruitment is for everybody' and we are as open as we possibly can be with our attraction and recruitment processes.

We know that our approach is working because we have 26% female intake on our apprenticeships against an industry norm of 8%-10%. It might not be 50:50, but it shows that there is a significant shift in the right direction towards parity. That's been achieved through Girls Into Engineering events, open evenings and parents' evenings that give us the opportunity to have conversations about why engineerings is a great to get involved in.

It's also about making young people aware of the new roads into technology, for example 'Industry 4.0.' From the offset, our engineering apprentices are working on their handling tools skills but also working with a robot to ask 'how can I programme the robot to do that mundane activity while I get on with something else?'. We try to introduce the concept very early on of 'Cobotics' - the relationships between the individual and the robot working hand in hand.

All these things help to trigger the excitement of individuals and allow for people to feel welcome both into BAE Systems and the industry itself.




BAE Systems