1. Please give an overview of your role and what this involves on a day-to-day basis:
As a Nuclear Trainee, I undertake 6 months placements across the nuclear-related departments across the BAE Systems Barrow Site. These placements include Operations; where I work with the teams building the Nuclear Reactor. In the Nuclear Safety and Regulation Department, I get the opportunity to look into the requirements for being a nuclear-rated site and all the safety precautions in place for any possible breaches in nuclear safety. In the Nuclear Engineering Department I will gain an understanding of the nuclear build requirements and why it is built in the way it is.
2. Have you learnt any new skills or developed existing skills?
I believe I have developed and grown many new skills, as well as put into practice skills and talents that I already had. Communicational skills are obviously a big one. Coming from a small school environment into a huge company like BAE Systems which employs over 7000 in Barrow, it was a daunting to start with, however I was helped by placement managers and the development team, who helped build up my confidence to talk to the relevant people and be able to deliver presentations to important people in the business. I have also come to understand the importance of personal professional development and how this form of long-term planning assists with organisation of day-to-day activities. I have been able to develop my organisational skills, growing my 'right first time' approach to any tasks that I undertake, and recognising where attention to detail is important.
3. To what extent do you enjoy your programme?
On my programme I get to work and network with people who are some of the most knowledgeable in the country in the Nuclear Engineering field of work, and that is how I learn best. I enjoy working with and feeding from those who have extensive knowledge and picking up as much information as possible from them. BAE Systems offers many opportunities to undertake STRETCH Assignments which can include work on charitable projects, or working with local schools and the local community to promote STEM activities. I have become heavily involved with a number of these ‘extra-curricular’ activities, including Nuclear Scholars, Top of the Form and Charity Football. BAE is generally an exciting place to work, submersed in the world of designing and building some of the most advanced engineering projects in the world. My colleagues are extremely friendly, experienced and are always willing to share their knowledge whenever possible, which ultimately makes my trainee scheme incredibly enjoyable.
4. How valued do you feel by BAE Systems?
As previously mentioned, my colleagues are extremely friendly, experienced and are always willing to share their knowledge whenever possible, which makes me feel valued and welcome to share my ideas and ask questions. Many of the people who I have worked alongside, recognise the need for new trainees and apprentices who are willing and capable of learning quickly, as the engineering industry as a whole nationally, has an ageing population, with the majority of knowledge and experience held with those who in the next 10-15 years, will be retiring and taking their extensive knowledge with them. Therefore I feel my role in the business is valued by most people, as the majority understand and realise the need for new, young engineers who are required to learn fast and take on board lots of information.
5. How well organised/structured is your programme?
My programme is based on completing 6 months placements in various departments for the first 3 years of my trainee scheme, then move into an exit role within one of the departments. This to me, seems like a fantastic way in which to get an insight into the wider business and be able to take on the most information possible and get the most I can from the very beginning of my career working here at BAE. Unfortunately there are a few managers and heads of department that are not as committed to providing the excellent standard of placement that many other departments do. I and the other trainees accept that they have busy and stressful day-jobs, however I feel that they do not always recognise the need for young engineers like myself who in 10 to 15 years will be filling the gap and issue of the countrywide ageing population in the engineering industry. I think this lapse in commitment is partly due to a lack of communication between the Early Careers Department, and the departments which I visit as part of my placement rotation.
6a. How much support do you receive from your training provider?
There are endless training opportunities at BAE Systems, from short online courses, to instructor-led courses that are completed over a number of days. They give me the opportunity to develop as an individual, as well as improve the quality and standard of my work.
6b. How much support do you receive from your employer?
Currently BAE Systems is working hard to implement a different culture within the business. That is a ‘right first time’ and ‘safety’ culture, in an attempt to move away from ‘cost before safety’ and ‘time before quality’ cultures of the recent past. Therefore in the sense of support received from my employer, I would put a lot of my development down to being submersed in this culture of working to high standards and high quality.
7. How well does your salary/package meet your costs?
BAE Systems is local to my home town, therefore I have not had to move away from home and it is a relatively short commute to work every day. Consequently, I have limited costs for living in the area and getting to and from work. I think my salary is extremely good for the role I am in. It has enabled me to buy and run a car, as well as pay rent to my parents, with still plenty left over for holidays abroad during my annual leave. I know for trainees who have had to move to the area to be closer to BAE, have struggled a little more than I. Of course trainees who live on their own have higher living costs and therefore have struggled slightly more, but I think (if well budgeted and managed) is more than enough to meet living costs, as Barrow is a relatively cheap place to live.
8. Are there many opportunities outside of work?
First year trainees have the opportunity to do a week of outward bound in the Lake District, aiming in particular to work on team-building, and skills such as organisation, leadership and communication. Locally there are many opportunities for volunteer work within the community. One that I am heavily involved in is the Scouting movement. I assist in leading a Scout Troop, and this further develops skills that I would not necessarily gain in the workplace, and aids skill development in an environment that is very different to the workplace, allowing me to be able to adapt skills to different situations.
9. Would you recommend BAE Systems to a friend?
I would highly recommend the trainee scheme to a friend, based on the long-term career prospects not only with BAE Systems, but in the global engineering industry, particularly focussing on Nuclear. The starting salary is second to none in the local area, and BAE Systems fund degree-level courses which put me in good stead for a successful career in engineering. Additionally the trainee and graduate community participates in a number of social events throughout the year, which as well as allowing all the trainees and graduates from different functions to interact, gives ‘work’ more of a university feel as you network with people the same age and on similar training schemes.
10. What tips or advice would you give to others applying to BAE Systems?
Apply; if you are interested in the nuclear industry but don’t feel university is the right option for you, or excited by a career working on the world’s most technically advanced submarines. Being local to BAE Systems is a must, I would say. It helps with integrating with the other trainees and BAE employees. It is not as easy to get on the trainee scheme as some people make out. Your application must be of a very high standard, you need good A Levels and places are limited.
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