1. Please give an overview of your role and what this involves on a day-to-day basis:
My role, as a third year, is as a permanent apprentice in one of the departments in the main factory building. I am involved with the production and testing of units destined for fighter aircraft, conducting a variety of tasks, all of which I find to be interesting and enriching. I conduct initial tests, acceptance tests, production of units, unit repair and rework, and occasionally am involved with producing engineering units.
2. Have you learnt any new skills or developed existing skills?
I have learned a variety of new skills, in soldering, fault finding, unit construction, working to tolerance, working to time constraints, liaising between departments, developing interpersonal working relationships, and many others. I would certainly say that the apprenticeship has allowed me to develop these skills, although it is worth noting the majority of this has occurred since the start of my third year when I became a permanent employee.
3. To what extent do you enjoy your programme?
The enjoyment of my programme depends very heavily on the day. The department I was placed in were not expecting another apprentice when I arrived, and already had fairly little work to spread between the team. As a result, there are lots of blocks of time where I am left to practice skills or work on my NVQ and HNC qualifications, which I do not find interesting or enjoyable. The support and instruction provided in these qualifications is hit and miss at best, and as such I can find that I struggle a lot to complete the work. In effect- I love the programme, but only when I actually have work to do
4. How well organised/structured is your programme?
The organisation and structure of the programme is again hit and miss at best. There seems to be absolutely no communication between the company and the training providers we visit, and the apprentice team frequently do not inform us of some important engagements until far too late. There seems to be a general lack of preparation and readiness for apprentices in several of the departments, and before third year, when we were added to a department's payroll, it was very easy for apprentices to slip under the radar in training and pay- the company have actually forgotten to issue us pay rises before.
5. How much support do you receive from your employer?
There is, in truth, an awful lot of support that is available from BAE. The OH department have been very helpful to me during a period of exceptionally poor mental health, and I would feel happy and confident to return to them if this arose again. The safeguarding and apprentice team (effectively the same group of people) can be hit and miss however- when I had this period, one member of the team was exceptionally kind and sympathetic towards me, whilst another effectively only cared about how my poor mental health might reflect on their position in the apprentice team and as a member of the HR department, and how it might make the apprenticeship look. The score here would be a 10/10 if I was talking solely about OH, but as I am not, it is lower
6. How much support do you receive from your training provider when working towards your qualifications?
Speaking solely of IPS, as they are the training provider that is a compulsory part of the programme, the support can range from absolutely excellent to downright awful. In maths, for example, [This section of the comment has been removed by a member of the RateMyApprenticeship Team because it did not meet our site terms and conditions] was incredibly helpful and understanding, and sat with me for practically a fortnight straight as I worked through some maths I was really struggling with, giving me all of the support I could want. The tutorage in my second year, however, was a lot poorer. With the exception of [This section of the comment has been removed by a member of the RateMyApprenticeship Team because it did not meet our site terms and conditions], who was consistently excellent, the rest of the support was suboptimal at best. Our Electronics tutor sadly passed away, and IPS seemed to hire the first person through the door as his replacement- an incredibly poor, poorly prepared tutor, who was unwilling to help us in a lot of circumstances. The training manager also seemed to have something against those of us from BAE, possibly as a result of our frequent discussions with him in which we stressed that we wished to achieve distinctions. Rather than offer us support, his attitude seemed to be "You get what you get" and in fact made it more difficult to achieve a distinction In maths (making the maths distinction in exam conditions when we would normally have a fortnight to do it with all the help we required.) This was incredibly demoralising.
7. How well do you feel that your qualification (through your training provider) helps you to perform better in your role?
From IPS, the qualifications gained don't always seem to apply directly to our working activities. Obviously, it would be unreasonable for the training to be tailored specifically to the company, but very little of what was learned comes in directly useful for me. The skills in soldering and setting up test equipment have been very valuable to me, but not a great deal else. The general learning has enriched me greatly, and I have a deeper insight into the work I do as a result, even if I don't strictly need it to do my job.
8. Are there extra-curricular activities to get involved in at your work? (For example, any social activities, sports teams, or even professional networking events.)
There are a variety of wellness groups you can get involved in at work, and individual groups of apprentices and other employees often organise social events. Personally, I have taken part in a wellness group organised and run by normal employees, primarily ex apprentices, wherein we get together and play tabletop RPGs
9a. Would you recommend BAE Systems to a friend?
In actuality, a third, tentative option for question 9a would have been appreciated. I would recommend BAE to a friend depending on what they were looking for. In truth, although I have had some valued experiences and made some close and valued friends, I would not recommend the apprenticeship, but I would recommend other roles, and in fact I have. As several of my friends I met in school doing engineering, they all have a fairly similar skill set and set of experiences, so when they have been laid off or lost their jobs for other reasons, I have actually recommended a shop floor job to several of my friends.
10. What tips or advice would you give to others applying to BAE Systems?
Be honest about your past experience- you don't need to blag your way through pretending you wire supercomputers for fun, BAE only need to see you have an interest in electronics and you have an electronic mindset. Personally, I had done some simple soldering in the past, and that was enough to display interest.
Be interested in engineering, and try not to go in with any expectations- working here is nothing like the sterile, scientific environment I was expecting (which I for one am exceptionally grateful for)
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