Maggie Aderin-Pocock talks exclusively to FINN’s Hazel King about the importance of spreading the word about apprenticeships in the aerospace, security, defence and space industries

According to ADS Group, the UK aerospace, defence, security and space sectors support more than a million jobs, with 19,250 of those in apprenticeship schemes. To celebrate the importance of apprenticeships, ADS Group recently held its annual Apprenticeship Reception at the House of Commons, providing a platform for those apprentices to engage with MPs and industry on the importance of apprenticeships to the UK workforce.

Special guest at the event in June was Maggie Aderin-Pocock, space scientist and advocate for the importance of apprenticeships in creating a skilled workforce. “Apprenticeships are incredibly important and are the thing that many kids are missing out on,” she said during the event. “I’m a space scientist and one of my challenges and the reason I went out and started doing science communication is because we haven’t got enough people coming into these industries. There is a horrible statistic that says less than 15% of 10–14-year-olds are considering careers in STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics].

“Many kids think if you want to get into STEM you need to get a degree, but there are so many other routes and apprenticeships is one of the greatest – you can earn as you learn, you work in a company as well as doing your studies, so it is a wonderful package but too few kids know about it.”

According to Aderin-Pocock, events like ADS Group’s Apprenticeship Reception are critical to spread the word. “It is lovely talking to the apprentices themselves, and I’ve been encouraging them to go out to schools and tell other kids about the fantastic things they’re doing, but it is also wonderful to speak to politicians as well. Apprenticeships are the unsung hero, and we need to do something about it,” she enthused.

What can government do to push apprenticeships?

As Chancellor of the University of Leicester and with a degree and PhD from Imperial College London, Aderin-Pocock understands the university route into STEM industries, but believes that type of formal education is not right for everyone.

“I think university is sold as a single point of entry. I don’t think people know about the other options, and so I think the government needs to make sure that that message is getting out there. Also, sometimes there are incentives for getting kids into university in schools – I think we need to diversify that because some kids thrive in university, some kids thrive in apprenticeships, so let’s get kids where they’re going to do best. We need to work that out.”

What are the benefits for the companies who take on apprentices?

As an industry facing a skills gap, training people to do the exact job you need them to do can help futureproof your business, according to Aderin-Pocock. “When you take on an apprentice, what you’re doing is you’re training someone to work in your specific workforce – they’re there, they’re learning, but they’re also part of that workforce and environment,” she explained.

“I currently sit on the government committee looking at mathematics to 18 and it is quite interesting what industry want, what universities want, what different cohorts want, but when you take on an apprentice, you train them for exactly what role you want them to play in your company, so you give them the skills that allow them to thrive in your company. That is good for the student as it gives them an almost guaranteed job, but it’s good for the company because they’re giving them the skills they need, and those skills are portable.”


Subscribe to the FINN weekly newsletter