Mark Menzies backs aerospace skills plans

Fylde MP Mark Menzies has given his backing to BAE Systems’ white paper which sets out six guidelines to develop more skills in the UK workforce.

The paper, Future Skills For Our UK Business, sets out principles to ensure the right skills are being developed in the aerospace market as technologies such as artificial intelligence come to the fore.

Nigel Whitehead, Chief Technology Officer at BAE Systems, said that defence, aerospace, engineering and manufacturing sectors need to work together and prioritise investment in digital and ‘soft skills’, upskilling and retraining and supporting supply chains and SMEs, to respond to the expected levels of complexity in industrial and business systems and unprecedented demand from technologies such as artificial intelligence.

He also suggested that businesses in these sectors need to create a more diverse, inclusive and flexible workplace by reflecting different working preferences and lifestyles. To help address the UK’s shortage of engineers, he called for a nationwide programme of activity to improve the perception of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects and careers and for the engineering industry to consider recruiting more people with highly applicable skills that traditionally are more associated with arts subjects, such as creativity and problem solving.

BAE Systems has set out six guiding principles for the development of skills in the UK. They are: creating a more diverse, inclusive and flexible workplace for the employees of tomorrow; committing to retraining and upskilling; prioritising investment in digital, soft and behavioural skills; continuing to support suppliers and the SME community so that they can develop skills in the digitally-enabled workplace; successful and innovative partners help the UK economy thrive; continuing to improve the perception of STEM subjects and careers; and continuing to champion vocational training.

Mr Menzies, whose constituency includes BAE Systems’ Warton plant where Typhoon and Hawk are assembled, said: “It is vital we retain our skills base as we look towards a sixth-generation fighter aircraft.

“We must also further develop those skillsets to ensure we remain at the forefront of aerospace technology in the future.

“We do not want to have to rely on other nations for aerospace expertise – it is imperative we retain our sovereign capability and I fully support BAE’s drive to make sure our workforce remains the best in the world.”

At a launch event hosted at the Company’s state-of-the-art Academy for Skills & Knowledge in Samlesbury, Mr Whitehead, said: “I am personally really excited by the opportunities in today’s highly connected world and what the future will bring, but we cannot be complacent. By taking tangible action now and capitalising on the ambition of young people coupled with the UK’s traditions and advantages – education, strong legal frameworks, technical innovations and leadership – we can exploit the digital revolution and compete on the world stage.”

Dr Hayaatun Sillem, chief executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering added: “Failure to successfully prepare for the impact of technological disruption means we will put at risk our ability to benefit from the opportunities created by digital transformation and other waves of technological change.”

BAE Systems invests £90m annually in skills in the UK, providing world-class training facilities for its employees and education to ensure its current and future workforce are trained to the highest standards. At any given time, there are approximately 2,500 apprentices and graduates in training across its UK business.