Lancashire is hoping to cement its place at the heart of British aviation for generations to come with a £15.6m training academy which will produce the aircraft makers of the future.
BAE Systems’ new flagship building, the Academy for Skills and Knowledge, is set to throw open its doors next year for schoolchildren to visit and see just what the young apprentices are working on.
The two storey building features a host of cutting-edge equipment from 3D printing and carbon fibre manufacturing to robots, advanced computer aided design and a virtual reality “cave” which can help engineers and designers work on projects remotely.
The 7,400m2 building has been designed to inspire the young engineers of the future acres of glass which allow views into the various departments and creates a light and airy atmosphere in the 26 classrooms.
A replica Typhoon, the one used at airshows, currently stands in pride of place and on the mezzanine floor a timeline is displayed of the history of British aircraft building with photographs and models of some of the great aircraft produced by the companies which amalgamated over the years to form BAE Systems.
A traditional engineering workshop featuring fitting and fabrication techniques which have been the mainstay of BAE for decades is flanked by a carbon composites training room, a 3D printing and CAD classroom and an electronics workshop where apprentices can learn about the complex wiring running throughout BAE System’s aircraft and work on projects such as miniature mobile robots.
The first floor also house the spectacular virtual reality cave - a four sided immersive 3D environment which has an all round display, even on the floor allowing apprentices and trainees to practice working on aircraft and testing out new techniques remotely.
And there is an education centre aimed at primary school age children and features bright and attractive STEM (science technology English and mathematics) technology, a pilot’s helmet with a microphone which uses the bones of the skull to transit radio messages more clearly, a careers zone, a virtual reality demonstrator and a forces of flight workshop where pupils can learn about aerodynamics and create their own paper model to fly along a runway.
Education manager, Julia Connolly said: “We have a lot of engagement with young people with a focus on primary schools the age when we can get them hooked into STEM. It is about engaging with the parents as well. There is a lot of misunderstanding about engineering and we hope to show the potential, that it is a clean working environment with the chance to progress and work internationally.”