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Business and innovation

AWE plc – macro employer (5,000+ employees)

For almost 70 years AWE has been developing future talent through its apprenticeship programme, using its specialist training workshops and highly skilled instructor cadre. It is proud of the critical role apprentices play in the delivery of its vital mission.

Apprenticeships are key to ensuring AWE’s assets are available to enable its work and to manufacture/maintain the product, filling critical skills gaps and ensuring nuclear industry competence which is difficult to recruit in the current market.

Historically, it has trained in five engineering disciplines. It recognised some time ago the need to offer a broader range of apprenticeships across the whole business. In the current climate of increasing costs versus government spending cuts it is unable to compete for well-established workers and have other skills needs beyond engineering. Its strategy over the last three years has therefore been to expand its apprenticeships offering.

The programme now encompasses both business and science professions: a total of 14 professions across levels two to six. Degree apprenticeships started in September 2018 for engineering and explosives. The expansion programme doubled its yearly intake of apprentices from 40 to over 80, with a target to reach 100-plus.

Equipment investment in the last three years has been well in excess of £350,000 including wifi installation, CNC mills, new LEV for soldering, IT technology, training software and, most importantly, the development of a training laboratory. This laboratory ensures its laboratory technician apprentices gain the fundamental skills needed before moving to complex environments round site.

As well as its expansion, the use of technology has been a primary focus both as training aids and for work deployment. Most apprentices are given a laptop and iPads are available in workshops; it is also starting to roll out loan laptops this year.

The tech plan will ensure immediate access to research materials, the internet and competence recording as well as the ability to provide video-based learning from their work environment and as a method of recording competence and demonstrating learning.

As part of its diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategy, it is actively working to increase gender diversity with the number of females in engineering and science apprenticeships rising from 7% to 18% in three years. It has also recruited a high volume of individuals with specific learning difficulties:

  • Dyslexia 30
  • ADHD 4
  • Asperger’s / autism 7
  • Anxiety 6
  • Other 2

Having a diverse workforce is not only beneficial for the business, it provides excellent opportunities and support for the individual, including via psychologists, technology and ‘association’ memberships, such as Anxiety UK.

In addition to the learning programme, apprentices are also able to undertake community projects such as church bell restoration and tall-ship parts manufacture, which develop their technical skills as well as their communications skills.

It has also had good success for apprentices at awards ceremonies with several champions proving the quality of AWE’s training and people.