BAE Systems apprentices inspire the next generation

Elaine Baker of BAE Systems talks to Computer Weekly about mentoring and career progression

Apprentices at BAE Systems are stepping up to inspire the next generation, according to director of engineering Elaine Baker.

The IT security wing of BAE Systems appointed Baker in July 2014, making her the first woman to take up the role.

She recognises that mentors are important to career progression, and therefore dedicates her efforts to helping develop those who work for her. 

However, Baker said it’s not just herself or other senior members of BAE Systems who have taken to mentoring roles and positions of leadership, but also the apprentices themselves.

BAE apprentices share their experiences with schools by giving presentations about why they decided to join BAE Systems to encourage the next wave of talent.

“It’s more credible coming from a young person,” said Baker. “They are very confident giving the presentations and we know they have to have opportunities like that to move forward in themselves, and they also need opportunities to work with real clients.

“All leaders have a responsibility to reach out and show what is on offer in the industry. They should be encouraging young talent,” she said.

Baker has previously held senior roles at Capita, Barclays, CSC and Xansa. At BAE Systems she is responsible for engineering across all of BAE Systems Applied Intelligence’s business areas, which include cyber security, big data, risk and compliance, and systems integration.

She described the first time the penny dropped that technology was the sector for her: “I was in a business role at an insurance company. I was working in a tech environment and realised I had an aptitude for it.”

Apprenticeship standards

In January 2014, BAE Systems announced plans to take on more than 400 apprentices this year – almost double last year's number. The company offers its apprenticeship placements across the country, in both engineering and business-focused roles.

At the end of last year, a YouGov report commissioned by BAE Systems and the Royal Academy of Engineering revealed that almost half of British parents (46%) of children aged 11-18 would encourage their children to take up an apprenticeship.

Of those surveyed, 42% said their perception of apprenticeships had changed for the better, with 67% admitting they were pleased that apprenticeships are now being presented as an attractive option for young people.  

Last year, BAE was one of the first companies to sign up to a government scheme to ensure the availability of high-level apprenticeships throughout England, with the aim of providing the best apprenticeships in the world with tougher schemes. 

The move was made after the Richard Review in 2012 revealed apprenticeships needed to be made clearer for employers and those applying.

As a result, the digital industries apprentice standards were launched in August, which means those who now take an apprenticeship will be graded as a pass, merit or distinction to provide a clearer measure of their level of achievement.

The standards include software developer, network engineer, software tester, digital marketer, cyber intrusion analyst and digital media technology practitioner. Other sectors include engineering, hospitality and the legal profession. They were unveiled alongside the government campaign Get In, Go Far.

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