Hero image for The seven best things about being an undergraduate at BAE Systems

There are a number of opportunities for undergraduate students at BAE Systems, with around 80 summer internship placements and 90 one-year industrial placements each year across both engineering and business roles. So, what can you look forward to as an undergraduate at BAE Systems? We caught up with Catherine Sutherland and Mariya Tarabanovska, two current undergraduates at BAE Systems, to find out.

Catherine is an undergraduate buyer, working in procurement, and is studying management at the University of Kent, while Mariya is an undergraduate engineer, working in the Air sector of BAE Systems, and is studying aerospace engineering at the University of Manchester. Here are their seven favourite things about their time as placement students with BAE Systems.

1. Top-class training and development

‘BAE Systems is incredibly supportive of training and development opportunities. At the start of my placement, I attended a fantastic week of presentations and workshops (online due to the pandemic). Since then, I’ve even met our CEO, Charles Woodburn, at a careers catch-up meeting,’ says Mariya.

‘There are always newsletters and calls that go out to highlight what events are coming up or what new roles are available. All you’re required to do is to grab those chances. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend a few training sessions beyond what’s required of me as an undergraduate. I can now say I’m much better at personal effectiveness, problem solving and forecasting, among other skills.’

2. The autonomy to shape your role

‘I’ve been given a huge level of autonomy and control in deciding what I’d like to get involved in at BAE Systems. I can tailor my role to what I’d like to experience. This has led to me branching out into another team to widen my experience and knowledge of procurement,’ says Catherine.

‘I’ve been given a lot of responsibility. In procurement, it’s crucial to build relationships with suppliers so I was happily surprised when I found out that I was allowed to deal directly with them. I wasn’t pushed back into the shadows due to my lack of experience and, over the months, I’ve grown my supplier portfolio. Now I’m dealing with suppliers from all over the world. As BAE Systems is a huge, global company, I could work for BAE Systems across the UK or abroad in the future.’

3. Exposure to a variety of projects

‘The Air sector of BAE Systems is split into a number of capabilities and disciplines, which allows for numerous opportunities,’ says Mariya. ‘I’ve previously had a big role on a project in hypersonics, which was fantastic to develop my understanding of the subject, and now I’m on another project focusing on systems engineering. This has helped me to see the bigger picture of delivering a programme as large as designing and manufacturing an aircraft – and getting to know various teams and the technologies they work on is certainly exciting!

To me, BAE Systems is not only synonymous with stability but also innovation and large impact. If you’re somebody who likes being inspired and working on some of the biggest, most important projects in aerospace and defence, BAE Systems will be perfect for you.’

4. Countless opportunities, not just limited to your core role

‘As an undergraduate at BAE Systems, I can also take on ‘stretch assignments’ outside of my main job. This has allowed me to develop an even larger skills set and get a better feel for all of the opportunities within the Company,’ explains Mariya.

‘The biggest stretch assignment I’m involved in is the Air sector Engineering Taster Week (ETW) – a week-long event to introduce 16–18-year-olds to a career in engineering and help them to gain insights into the aerospace and defence industry. I attended the ETW myself a number of years ago so it’s great to now lead on this project. I’m extremely passionate about STEM outreach and giving back to the community, and I count myself lucky to be doing exactly what I love!’

5. Great employee resource groups and social clubs

‘There are loads of opportunities to socialise and connect with your colleagues at BAE Systems. There’s football, golf, cycling and photography clubs, just to name a few,’ says Catherine. ‘There are many different employee resource groups, including groups for LGBTQ+, mental health, gender equality, veterans, ethnic diversity and support for those with a disability. There are also lots of charity events and challenges, such as sponsored walks.’

6. Supportive colleagues

‘The extent to which the Company looks after its employees is just unbelievable. Everybody is extremely supportive,’ says Mariya. ‘We were introduced to our buddies when we first started and it’s been great to see how somebody just a few steps ahead of me is advancing their career. My managers and senior colleagues have also been incredibly inspirational and happy to help, be it a technical issue on a project or my journey to becoming a Chartered Engineer.’

‘The move toward online activities due to the coronavirus was made so much easier by the Company heavily investing in IT to ensure we were all able to work effectively,’ adds Mariya. ‘Each team has its own ways of keeping in touch with interactive tech-enabled meet-ups. We still have coffee and lunch breaks, just virtually, and the Company introduced mental health and well-being sessions and collaborative projects for employees to get involved with.’

7. A flexible workplace that supports work/life balance

‘Even as an undergraduate, BAE Systems trusts you and gives you a lot of flexibility,’ says Catherine. ‘We have core hours but we’re able to allocate our remaining working hours as and when. This allows me to have a great work/life balance and enables me to still see friends who are studying or working non-conventional hours.’

To be one of the first to hear when BAE Systems’ 2022 undergraduate opportunities open, register your interest here.

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