For hundreds of Lancashire young people looking to launch their careers, Friday is take off day.
BAE Systems, the county’s biggest hi-tech employer, is then launching the search for the next generation of apprentices.
The firm which employs more than 9,000 at Samlesbury and Warton is to open its apprentice application window on November 1 and will follow it up with a series of open events for people to go along and see what might be in store for the lucky 250 taken on next September.
And those thinking that it will be all about nuts and bolts, grease and lathes and no place for women, could not be more wrong.
In today’s hi-tech era, while there is a place for those bread and butter hand and crafting skills, there is a dazzling new world of business studies, software, new manufacturing techniques, cyber security, robotics and design to choose from.
Many of the apprentices from years gone by, who cut their teeth on such projects as Tornado and Hawk are now in the top roles at the company and today’s new starters are likely to be in those top positions when the new 6th Generation aircraft such as Tempest are taking to the air over Preston and the Fylde coast.
At Warton, the company is pioneering the use of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality to help the pilots of the future cope with the myriad of the demands of the air battlefields of the future.
BAE is investing £20m in developing such cutting edge technology, but much of it youngsters would recognise from the world of computer games.
Both Warton and Samlesbury have 3D Virtual Reality classrooms and areas where apprentices and workers can use the technology to speed their development.
At Samlesbury, the “VR Cave” allows people to practice working in a hangar or workshop environment in safety.
It even lets them do a virtual walk through of a Typhoon jet to see the electrical wiring looms or the hydraulic system or the life support system in the jet, all without having to go out into a hangar or factory floor.
The emphasis all the way through the apprentices’ journey is on “blended learning” hands on with the tech they will need to use and classroom learning all in one place – bright, clean and welcoming environment far removed from the traditional grease and grind of male-dominated workshops of decades ago.
They may well start with hands on tools to learn about tolerances and torque before moving on to fabrication and welding, but then the journey takes them to modern material such as carbon fibre, so-called 3D printing or additive manufacturing, cobotics - humans and robots working together, and hybrid manufacturing.
Skills and techniques that will be used across the world in the decades to come.
Nigel Davies, Principal of the £15.6m ASK facility said: “What we are striving for is to develop the skillset, toolset and mindset for the future.
“These apprentices coming here are high calibre people and the demographic is looking to work not just here in Lancashire but globally.”
Alicia Bagshaw, 20, from Cottam near Preston is typical of the new generation. In her second year of apprenticeships she got her A-Levels at Runshaw College and decide University was jot for her and so applied to BAE Systems and has an interest in systems integration.
She said: “There are so many different opportunities for careers and travel.
“Doing an apprenticeship has given me real hands on experience. Starting out with the traditional hand skills give you a better understanding for later. It is interesting to see just how much BAE Systems does from cyber security , ships, submarines as well as aerospace. We have the opportunities to do placements at various sites around the world.”
Fellow second year apprentice Ben Whalley, 20, who went to Clitheroe Grammar School, said: “Engineering these days is such a massive subject, there are so many different parts to it and different careers.
“I have an interest in data modelling. It is like so much of the modern technology you hear about, such as artificial intelligence, it sounds futuristic but in fact it is already here.”
Alicia added: “One of the interesting things I noticed as an apprentice here is that there is a range of age groups. I think it is from 16 to 33 on the courses. That give such a range of life experience that you just did not have at college with people of your own age.”
Nigel Davies, added: “Our apprenticeship programme offers a world of opportunities for young people in Lancashire, whatever their career ambitions are.
“They have the opportunity to be the people who manufacture aircraft which will fly with the RAF for decades to come, those who invent the technologies behind those aircraft, or even the people who ensure the business runs smoothly to make all these things happen.
“On top of this, there is the chance to work anywhere in the world, alongside amazing people and do things which revolutionise the way our customers work for generations - the opportunities are limitless.
“I would urge anyone to look at the opportunities which are available and come along to one of our open evenings and find out where a career with us could take them.”
The BAE Systems open days for prospective apprentices are being held as follows:
n Monday, November 4 – 5.30pm to 9pm - Academy for Skills & Knowledge - BB2 7FT
n Saturday, November 23 – 9am to 11.30am - Academy for Skills & Knowledge - BB2 7FT
n Thursday, January 30, 2020 –5.30pm to 9pm - AFC Fylde, Mill Farm Sports Village, Coronation Way, Wesham PR4 3JZ
n Saturday, February 8, 2020 – 9am to 11.30am - Academy for Skills & Knowledge - BB2 7FT
n Thursday, February 20, 2020 – 5.30pm to 9pm Academy for Skills & Knowledge - BB2 7FT
The closing date for applications is February 28, 2020.
To register to go along with a parent if necessary visit: www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/BAESystemsOpenEvening