Samlesbury aerospace giant BAE Systems has opened a new £15.6 million training academy in a huge boost for the skills of current and future apprentices and employees.Advertisement
The company said the facility was the biggest single investment in skills for the country’s aerospace sector and will include facilities from primary school to degree level and beyond.
It will train all apprentices and graduates in BAE’s military aircraft business and provide life-long learning and skills development for 13,000 workers for at least the next 40 years.
The academy will also offer education sessions for five to 14-year-old schoolchildren.
Chris Boardman, managing director of BAE Systems Military Air & Information, said: “The Academy for Skills & Knowledge is the single biggest investment in skills in the aerospace industry and offers an unrivalled modern engineering and manufacturing environment in which BAE Systems can deliver the highest quality training.
“We are committed to playing our part in developing skills for the future, for our business, those in our supply chain and in education. In our experience, well-trained people are both socially mobile and very productive, which in turn generates economic wealth for the UK.”
The Academy, which was opened by Gadget Show guru Jason Bradbury, is the first to open on the new Lancashire Enterprise Zone at Samlesbury.
Some of the unique facilities at the Academy include:
Full-sized typhoon aircraft
Virtual reality cave
Kuka manufacturing robot
Carbon composites manufacturing facility and oven
Michael Croot, 34, was a financial adviser for 10 years and is now in his second year as an electrical apprentice.
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He demonstrated various gadgets the first year intake had created, including a Robot Wars-type spider.
“I hated being a financial adviser for about nine-and-a-half years and this has been brilliant,” he said.
“It just shows the opportunites available here at BAE. We have trainees from 16 to mid-30s like me, so it shows the diversity there is here.”
Manufacturing development engineer David Holmes, from Goosnargh, spoke of how the company was developing an internet-based manufacturing programme, marrying the new with old.
“The virtual reality room is very important because it shows how things are supposed to actually look,” he said.
“And we are also using a actual reality where the apprentices can take an electronic tablet to their workstation and work on it and develop it from there.”
There is also an interactive children’s area for the youngsters who, BAE hope, will be inspired to work in the aeronautical industry. And, while concentrating on the present and the future, the Academy also hosts the Heritage Area which celebrates the history of the company.
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From the 1910 Avro tri-plane to the early first Blackburn single-wing aircraft, the pictures chart the development of the company – even including a Jaguar jet taking off the M55 just before it was opened in 1975.
Heritage manager Ian Lawrenson started as an apprentice at BAE’s Preston docklands’ Strand Road factory in 1981.
He said: “I’ve seen a lot of changes over the years but this is a wonderful facility that will help to train the aeronautical engineers of the future.
“We are hoping the youngsters that come here will be inspired by everything they see from the history of the company to the 3D technology.
“And we hope they will be enthused and determined to work for a quality company like BAE.”
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