Students from across the UK received their GCSE results on 24 August, marking the first milestone in their career decisions. For those looking to get into the aerospace, defence, security and space sectors, apprenticeships offer a credible opportunity to ‘earn while you learn’.

There are currently 20,200 apprentices and 2,500 graduates in the sectors, according to UK trade association ADS Group, providing an alternative path to the traditional university route into STEM careers.

For Raytheon chief executive and managing director Jeff Lewis, an apprenticeship was an obvious path to employment. “I grew up in industrial south Wales, and probably didn’t have great academic aspirations. It seemed natural to everyone in my family that I would do an apprenticeship – it wasn’t a choice I made, it just seemed to everyone that I knew that that would be the route I took,” he explained.

He began his career with an apprenticeship at a large integrated steel works, working in the electronics department, and was sponsored by the company to go to university. “I developed my career even further and came back as a qualified engineer,” he added.

Lewis moved into the energy sector before finally settling in the defence industry, where he has remained for the past 25 years. “I have thoroughly enjoyed every moment in the defence sector – it is very innovative with hugely committed people, and it provides something back to the UK and our allies in terms of what you do on a daily basis,” he said.

Addressing skills shortages

According to ADS Group, the aerospace, defence, security and space sectors are facing deep labour shortages, with more than 10,000 vacancies reported on a consistent basis, and 60% of ADS members see workforce and skills shortages as having a significant impact on their businesses.

To address those shortages, Kevin Craven, chief executive of ADS, urged those receiving their exam results to consider an apprenticeship. “From the new era of flight and the sustainability agenda, the deployment of AI and machine learning in defence and national security, or the UK’s Future Launch capability, the skills need in our sectors continue to rapidly evolve,” he said. “As hundreds and thousands of young people receive their results today, I urge them to consider some exciting alternative paths to the traditional route of university to achieve their dreams and goals.”

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