New apprenticeship programme to help address defence engineering skills gap

A new apprenticeship standard has been approved and published today to help address the shortfall in critical engineering skills within the UK defence sector. The Systems Engineering Masters Level apprenticeship, part of the BIS Apprenticeship Trailblazer programme, is a three to five year programme of blended vocational and academic learning, designed to create rounded professional systems engineers.


The programme has been developed by the Defence Growth Partnership (DGP) skills group led by Allan Cook CBE, chairman of Atkins, a team of defence employers and the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MOD). Other members include Airbus, Altran, BAE Systems, Cobham, General Dynamics, HP, Marshall, MBDA, MooD International, QinetiQ, Raytheon, Rolls-Royce, Selex ES, Serco and Thales.


Allan said: “The defence sector demands the highest level of technical innovation. If the UK is to maintain its position as a world leader in this area – thereby ensuring the sector’s strong contribution to the national economy and securing our long term defence needs – then we must continue to invest in helping people develop the highest level of skills required.


“Research undertaken across industry in 2014 by the DGP identified a clear skills gap in systems engineering. Addressing this is key as it is a critical skill that delivers real competitive advantage, especially as we witness the ever-increasing complexity of defence systems and the growing need for interoperability.


“This new apprenticeship programme is designed to up-skill existing workers as well as attract new entrants to the sector. It has flexibility so that it can be tailored to the needs of an employer, reflecting local needs and the particular domain interests of employer and apprentice. Having been developed in partnership with industry and the MOD, the scheme also places an emphasis on developing ‘soft skills’ as well as business and project management awareness to ensure apprentices are equipped with everything they need to develop, grow and add value to our industry.”


This systems engineering qualification will be nationally recognised and transferable. Primarily focussed on the defence sector, the apprentice will be able to undertake INCOSE Practitioner level systems engineering roles across defence projects but also in other sectors, since many of the core skills will be transferable.


Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “The apprentice agenda is not simply a numbers game, it is about quality as much as quantity. Degree apprenticeships bring together the very best of higher and vocational education, and allow apprentices to achieve a full bachelor’s or master’s degree, whilst training on the job. The initiative sees employers such as Atkins, universities and professional bodies joining forces to develop the highly skilled workers our economy needs.”


Skills Minister Nick Boles said: “Degree apprenticeships are opening the door to professions such as systems engineering for many more young people across the country. They also play a key role in developing the high level technical skills British employers need to compete on the world stage.


“Apprenticeships provide life changing opportunities and I would like to thank Atkins for their hard work and commitment to this important initiative.”


For further information about these apprenticeships, please visit: