BAE Systems calls for nationwide skills drive

BAE Systems today called for a “concerted and co-ordinated effort” from industry, government and education to ensure the UK takes full advantage of the digital revolution.

The call was led by the defence group’s chief technology officer Nigel Whitehead who launched its whitepaper ‘Future Skills for our UK Business’ at an event held at its Academy for Skills & Knowledge in Samlesbury.

He 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.

He said that co-ordinated response was needed to meet the expected levels of complexity in industrial and business systems and unprecedented demand from technologies such as artificial intelligence.

Mr Whitehead said businesses need to create more diverse, inclusive and flexible workplaces 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 he urged the engineering industry to consider recruiting more people with highly applicable skills traditionally more associated with arts subjects, such as creativity and problem solving.

By capitalising on the ambition of young people we can exploit the digital revolution and compete on the world stage.

In its whitepaper BAE Systems sets out six guiding principles for the development of skills in the UK in “an environment of rapid technological change and fierce global competition”.

Nigel 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.”

Joining Mr Whitehead at the event in Samlesbury, 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. At any given time, there are approximately 2,500 apprentices and graduates in training across its business.