Work has begun on BAE Systems’ new £15m state-of-the-art training academy at one of its Lancashire sites.
And apprentices have been urged to aim high as they begin their careers with the plane-making giant.
The ceremony last week also heralded the first development to take place on the adjoining Lancashire Enterprise Zone at Samlesbury, near Preston.
The start of construction was marked by a ground-breaking ceremony, and coincided with a new cohort of apprentices joining BAE Systems’ Military Air and Information business.
The new facility, which will be built within the Lancashire Enterprise Zone in Samlesbury, will be completed in around a year’s time.
BAE Systems is one of the largest employers of apprentices in the UK and it invests around £80m per year in training and skills.
At any one time there are more than 1,000 apprentices in training across the UK and in July, the Company committed to significantly grow the number of apprentices in training to 2,000 by 2018.
Dave Holmes, BAE’s manufacturing operations director, said the training centre woujld provide apprentices with the skill s they need for many years to come.
He pointed out that Chris Boardman, the current managing director of the Military Air Division, had himself started out as an apprentice.
He said: “These young people will come up with the bright ideas that will keep our business competitive with the rest of the world.
“One day, one of them may take Chris Boardman’s role.”
Mr Holmes said the BAE-funded Enterprise Zone had been deliberately placed outside the firm’s boundaries so that it could be accessed by all.
Currently apprentices are trained at its Preston site.
Apprentice Anne Pilkington, 26, was delighted with the prospect of the new training academy.
Anne, of Penwortham, is a trainee aircraft fitter. She said: “At 16 this wasn’t really on my mind at all.
“My dad works here and he told me they were recruiting.
“I’m looking forward to finishing my training – it will bring it all closer.”
BAE Systems has worked closely with the Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership, which is creating Enterprise Zones at Samlesbury and at BAE’s Warton site.
It has been criticised by a Government minister and county businesses for a lack of progress on both sites, and chairman Edwin Booth said he was now pleased that the frustration was over and work could now begin in earnest.
Mr Booth said there had been many complications over the Samlesbury enterprise zone and legal matters to be ironed out.
He said his team had worked very hard behind the scenes in no way had they been dragging their feet.
“We are going to create a world class clustre of activity,” said Mr Booth.