The UK’s vibrant Defence sector plays a vital role in safeguarding our national security and contributing to the UK’s economic prosperity. The sector, which generated £22.1bn in 2017, also employs 140,000 people, including 4,200 apprentices.

We talk to Nicola from BAE Systems who is an Engineering Technician Apprentice working on Naval Ships.

Can you give a brief description of your role and what it involves?

I am currently in a placement in Test and Commissioning (T&C) which is the final stage before the ship is signed over to the Navy. T&C take control of each system after operations have installed each system and then run trials to ensure working functionality. We test various sections and run the entire system checking everything is working as it should, before finally taking the ship to sea for the final test. Once T&C pass everything then the ship is then ready to be handed over to the customer.

Have you worked on any other interesting projects/programmes and can you provide details of the work?

I am currently working on the OPV programme and I’ve also had the chance to undertake a placement in Power and Propulsion where I got an in-depth knowledge of the system that makes a ship move.

What do you find most exciting and /or rewarding about your role?

For me, the most rewarding part of the apprenticeship is the on the job learning, the knowledge that you gain while working with the experienced team members alongside structured learning in a college environment. That blend of learning exceeded that of a higher education and a university environment for my own personal knowledge.

What’s important to you about the people and teams you work with at BAE Systems?

I think that the people and teams that you work with are the key to succeeding at your apprenticeship. The people are highly skilled and have an abundance of knowledge that is there for you to take. Be it someone with a lifetime of experience, or an apprentice a few years above you, there is always something to learn from your colleagues and it is down to you to make sure that you make the most of it.

What do you think are the key skills required to make the best of the apprenticeship scheme?

I think an important skill that you will use through your apprenticeship is communication. There is always someone there to help you, so long as you ask.

Why do you enjoy working at BAE Systems?

I have loved my apprenticeship so far as it has forced me to push past my previous limitations and help develop my confidence in ways that I never thought possible.

Read about other apprentices in our sectors – updated throughout National Apprenticeship Week.