Aidan Blackburn, 19, is a BAE Systems Project Management apprentice currently working at the Yeovil site, giving him the opportunity to work on cutting-edge software projects.
Aidan, who comes from Lancashire, began the five-year degree apprenticeship with a placement at the BAE Systems military aircraft site in Warton, but is currently on placement at the company’s Yeovil unit.
“Before I joined the company, I studied maths, business and accounting A Levels at Newman College. Much like any 17 or 18 year old, I wasn’t initially sure what I wanted to do with my career,” he said.
“I really enjoyed business studies at school. Project Management has a lot of crossover with business management, which I considered studying at university.
“I also enjoy working with numbers, but applying them to real world situations.
“Having spoken to friends and family who already worked for BAE Systems, I decided that getting hands-on practical learning was more for me than going to university and studying in a classroom”.
Aidan was also keen to travel and work in different parts of the country, so he welcomed the opportunity to pursue relocation to Yeovil for his second placement.
“As BAE Systems is a large, global company I knew there might be opportunities to get out there and see the world, if you will.
I was keen to do a secondment in a different location – the opportunity at Yeovil came up . . . so I thought I’d give it a go!”
In Yeovil, Aidan has had the chance to work on several exciting projects. One of these involves working with an external client: Transport for London.
Since 2012, BAE Systems has been working with TFL to provide the highly specialised software behind its rail timetabling service for the London Underground.
“That was really interesting to me because I got to see how a company that mainly manufactures aircraft, move into an adjacent market and use their technology capabilities elsewhere,” he said.
Now that the software is fully operational, Aidan is involved in the support phase of the project. “My role is to help maintain our relationship with the client and support regular reviews,” he explained.
Another major project Aidan is involved with is the development of an aircraft cockpit simulator for training pilots and testing new software.
So, what does Aidan’s day to day role as an apprentice Project Manager involve?
“The Association of Project Management sets out various competencies we have to work towards,” Aidan explained.
“Examples include risk management – identifying a set of risks that could delay or have a cost impact on that project and ensuring day to day that those risks are managed or ideally; avoided.
“There’s also schedule management – ensuring changes to customer requirements are captured and deliverables are met on time and to budget.”
Aidan says he is enjoying his apprenticeship with BAE Systems and would highly recommend it to others.
“The support network with BAE Systems has been great so far – there are lots of people on hand to make sure that you are benefiting from the scheme, working towards your competencies and that the framework helps to manage your career aspirations,” he said.
“You aren’t thrown into the deep end too soon – you get a lot of responsibility during placements, which is good; but you are also managed effectively so that you don’t feel under too much pressure.
Despite not having the ‘student experience,’ Aidan doesn’t feel like he’s missed out socially by choosing an apprenticeship over University.
“You can still have a great time whilst doing an apprenticeship,” he said. “I’ve met loads of new people and it’s also good to have the financial flexibility.
“For anyone looking at whether an apprenticeship is right for them, as opposed to university for example, my thought process was simple: if I go the university I’ll get a degree, and a slightly better social life – but I’ll be paying thousands in tuition fees and maintenance loans without getting any experience.
“With this apprenticeship scheme I was able to get into work straight away, the company pays for my degree, and I earn a wage at the same time – for me, it was a bit of a no brainer.”