Diversity is a key topic of conversation in many industries these days. Corporately, the world is gradually understanding the inherent need for acceptance and respect for all individuals. An example of the current lack of diversity in UK engineering can be found in the percentage of female engineering professionals working in the sector. According to a Women’s Engineering Society 2017 statistics document, the UK has the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe (at less than 10%, while Latvia, Bulgaria and Cyprus lead with nearly 30%). With an obvious need for programmes that champion inclusion within UK engineering, it is worth taking time to celebrate companies that are taking positive steps forward.
BAE Systems is an award-winning global defence, aerospace and security company that strives to ensure diversity is a fundamental part of their company. As pioneers in the engineering sector, they were duly bestowed with the Semta Skills Award for Diversity in Engineering at the prestigious annual engineering and manufacturing sector awards ceremony in March 2019.
Clearly demonstrating a commitment to a more diverse workforce, BAE Systems is well regarded for the success of their cultural and outreach programmes. These programmes, now an integral part of the BAE Systems fabric have seen the business flourish. The outstanding increase in the proportion of female engineering apprentices at BAE Systems (5% 10 years ago to 30% today) is truly exceptional.
Natalie Sigona, Head of Diversity & Inclusion, BAE Systems, said: “We are delighted to be recognised for our commitment to growing a diverse workforce and creating an inclusive environment where everyone can achieve their best. It is important that we lead and inspire high performing teams and we are committed to creating a diverse workforce, which reflects the communities we work in.”
BAE Systems has also enjoyed extended success with their inclusion initiatives regarding their graduate programme. Graduates from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities now make up around 1 quarter of their intake.
It’s clear to see that the work to promote diversity and inclusion in the engineering sector is important to BAE Systems. Further to winning the Semta Skills Award, they have continued to develop and undertake programmes including a Schools Roadshow. As BAE Systems Chairman, Sir Roger Carr says: “Encouraging more female students to pursue careers in engineering is a key priority to meet our skills needs and create a more inclusive work environment”.
The company’s Schools Roadshow, run in partnership with the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy, takes in over 420 schools per annum and has successfully engaged with 100,000 young people aged 9-11. The roadshow seeks to inspire and encourage female students to take up higher-level STEM subjects and pursue careers in engineering.
As founder members of Movement to Work (an initiative that inspires young people to change their lives through positive encounters with work) BAE Systems has also worked to promote inclusion and diversity in their apprenticeship programme. Work experience is now offered on a 50:50 basis for men/women and links between work experience and the BAE Systems apprenticeship pipeline have been further strengthened. 29% of their 2017 apprentice intake came from the most deprived wards in the country and 15% of this intake have a learning difficulty and/or disability supported by the company on an individual basis.
It’s clear that BAE Systems is passionate about diversity, hence their well-deserved win at the 2019 Semta Skills Awards. With a tireless approach to inclusion that has extended well beyond this year’s distinguished ceremony, there’s every chance the company may be amongst the winners at the 2020 Awards. Mark Donnelly, Head of Apprenticeships & Skills for BAE Systems extols the importance of the awards for the UK engineering sector: “It’s a really good experience to enter into the award categories. It helps you to reflect on what you’ve achieved as a company and it helps you to think about what more you could do.”
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