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BAE Systems – The benefits of an apprentice

BAE Systems has always taken on apprentices because they allow the company to undertake organic growth, according to Rifaaqat Ahmed (pictured), project management skills coach at BAE Systems. “[Apprentices] provide valuable lifeblood to the company; the value of having a project management apprentice has been tenfold”. Rifaaqat changed careers to become a project manager, and he wanted to give back to the community and future talent, so working with apprentices was a dream come true.

Rifaaqat is always involved with apprentices. He is passionate about coaching them because of the wealth of new ideas and fresh insights they can offer: “I mentor and coach all the apprentices within the air sector business unit at BAE Systems… I will continue to mentor the apprentices once they leave the scheme if they wish for me to do so. I am extremely proud of all the apprentices I have mentored and the results we have received.”

The personal development and growth from mentoring and coaching has benefited apprentices as well as Rifaaqat in his own career; he’s able to build new relationships with diverse people and strengthen his people management skills, as well as his project management skills: “they question old ideas which makes you change and adapt. It also allows for a steady incremental growth in employment within the business. Personally, I take them on because I think they bring so much to the office, and once they feel comfortable and are settled, they provide some fantastic work.”

Apprentices are valuable to the business because they’re always keen to learn more, help with various tasks, and willing to take on challenges. At BAE Systems, apprentices are offered various opportunities so that they can develop; it helps the project team out and boosts the apprentice’s confidence as they refine their project management skills. “They take part in actual products we deliver such as the planes, submarines and ships – however they also get to take part in creating and hosting flagship events for the company which range from running the apprentice awards to outward bound to arranging their own site visits.” Allowing apprentices to get involved in various projects in a range of levels brings a diverse perspective to the table and sets them up for the unique future projects they will handle.

Rifaaqat recommends all business and organisations to look into apprenticeships and work with learning schemes: “more and more young people are looking to become an apprentice as a first choice rather than university which is understandable as it provides on the job training and professional qualifications.” Providing this opportunity for them is a big advantage because of the value apprentices bring; they have a lot to prove and they want to demonstrate their capabilities by tackling challenges. However, it’s important to also be prepared.

Rifaaqat advocates the importance of the relationship the business must create with the apprentice. It is a worthwhile venture, and “the organisation needs to be ready for an apprentice; they add a lot of value, but the value only comes if the apprentice is appreciated and mentored in the right way. You need to put value and effort into the apprentice for the company to reap the rewards. This means allowing time for the apprentice to develop their skills and then prove themselves. You also need to be aware that towards the end of the apprenticeship the apprentices will be under high pressure and so as a company you need to accommodate the time for them to study/revise for the same and help them with mock assessments.”

At BAE systems, apprentices go through the APM training process, and Rifaaqat explained how beneficial the relationship is: “APM provides a central point with all the apprenticeship standards information…They also provide the level D qualification for the standard which has industry recognised reputation.” Moreover, there are options for membership that all apprentices can register for and have access to the community for any questions they have.

Once the apprentice has been through the APM qualification and completed their end point assessments, “it’s a massive boost in morale for all those who have interacted with the apprentices. They have proved themselves in being able to conduct the work to a good standard. They are also very good at coming up with new ideas which has saved time and money.”

Working with apprentices has been a personal passion for Rifaaqat, and BAE Systems reap the rewards because of the way that apprentices provide new ideas, and also improve the culture of the office with their vibrancy and enthusiasm. Not only do apprentices benefit the projects the organisation is working on, but they also help the entire team develop themselves. 

Image courtesy of BAE Systems: Rifaaqat Ahmed, left received the BAE Systems Early Careers special recognition award presented by Chris Boardman Managing Director, right

Further reading

Employing an apprentice

How apprenticeships can make a difference

Project management apprenticeships

Case study - Pearson UK



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If you’re interested in applying for a project management apprenticeship visit the GOV.UK website and check the site regularly for the latest updates.

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