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2023 IOP Apprenticeship Employer Award

British Airways for creating a market-leading aeronautical engineering apprenticeship, building a lasting talent pipeline of future aircraft engineers and providing the student community with skills for life.


Group of young people.

The Aircraft Maintenance Apprenticeship at British Airways is designed to nurture commercial aircraft engineers of tomorrow. Due to the aging demographic of their engineering workforce, a talent pipeline of budding engineers was essential to ensure the delivery of aircraft operation for future years to come.

British Airways has had 300+ apprentices through this pipeline since 2010. The structure of the apprenticeship has grown to a 3-year programme: the first year studying off-site, with the second and third year returning to Heathrow base where apprentices complete rotational placements in hangars, workshops and the front-line terminal. All apprentices that successfully completed the apprenticeship and achieved the required qualifications were retained as aircraft mechanics.

As the role of an engineer comes with responsibility for safety, and the apprenticeship standard is intense, the apprentices have dedicated learning time off-site at Cotswold Airport, with fully funded accommodation; enabling them to focus on the fundamentals of the discipline and learn skills for life while living independently. The structure of the programme is constantly reviewed, recently introducing regional base placements such as Manchester and Edinburgh, placements in Cardiff with accommodation, inclusion in international trips to recover aircraft, and empowerment in self-development. The apprentices are entirely supported throughout their journey with two dedicated line managers and a learning and development partner.

Outside of the structured framework, apprentices get involved with British Airways’ sustainability vision: fundraising challenges, diversity champions and mentors in the student community. They also have exposure to engage with the apprentice network across the breadth of schemes they deliver. The programme has supported the business in many ways, including enabling existing colleagues to upskill as mentors. Following the collapse of Thomas Cook and Monarch airlines, British Airways absorbed and continued the learning of 55 apprentices to complete their apprenticeships.

British Airways takes pride in how it attracts and recruits apprentices, ensuring accessibility for everyone. Working with local schools and social mobility organisations, the company offers work experience placements that one in five of their apprentices have completed. The recruitment journey is user friendly, offering coaching sessions for candidates to feel supported, confident and prepared. Assessors are thoroughly trained and from diverse backgrounds. Where possible, assessors and candidates are gender-matched to support the balance of females entering the engineering field. British Airways is currently achieving double the government target for females into STEM, and those from ethnic backgrounds reflect well too.