An insight into BAE Systems’ graduate programme: support and freedom
‘I honestly don’t think that there is a better place to start off your career,’ graduate manufacturing engineer Charles Turvey says of BAE Systems. ‘Once you begin working here, you quickly understand why the company is so respected as a recruiter of graduates.’ Charles graduated with a BEng in mechanical and manufacturing engineering from the University of Portsmouth. ‘When I looked into BAE Systems, I saw that as a defence company it was working on the front line of technological advances and that really appealed,’ he says. ‘The opportunity to move around the business also stood out to me and the company’s training programme seemed generous.’
Unsurprisingly, competition for roles was fierce. ‘Unlike many others, I didn’t have any workplace experience in engineering,’ Charles says. ‘I believe, in part, my success was due to asking lots of questions at the assessment centre – questions about the company that I genuinely wanted to know the answer to.’ Charles recommends that if you are nervous about the competition to remember that ultimately interviewers like graduates they can work alongside, regardless of the amount of experience on your CV.
A well-developed graduate scheme
When we talk to Charles, what strikes us at The Guardian UK 300 is the balance offered between structured support and flexibility on the two-year graduate development framework. You are encouraged to move rotations every six months, but you can move sooner if you wish. You start and finish in your original function, but in between you get the opportunity to experience different areas and you can relocate to different sites to access alternative opportunities.
Charles, however, has found that staying at his current site suits him best and this has been arranged. Of the last ten months he has spent six in manufacturing engineering and four in electrical engineering, within hardware. ‘I’d like to move into mechanical engineering or design next to apply some more theory from my degree,’ he says. ‘I’m enjoying both the challenges and the flexibility of the scheme.’
We asked Charles to tell us his highlights.
The best bits of BAE Systems, by Charles
1. Real responsibility
I’ve been really happy with the responsibility I’ve been given. During my manufacturing placement, I contributed to the creation of a component to support the LiteHUD® head-up display programme. It was intended to aid the building process by creating a safe and reliable way of transporting valuable and delicate components. Originally, the work I had was for a simple process but I kept being given more to add to it – it turned into a bigger responsibility and showed that, if you have the ability, the company is willing to put trust in you.
During my current placement, I knew less about electrical engineering, but wanted to learn more. I’ve been given different components to examine, research and discuss with the team to form recommendations. The graduate programme allows you to move around, learn and contribute, regardless of your skill set.
2. Mentoring relationships
One of the best things about the company is the attitude and culture of the workforce. So far I’ve worked in small teams of six to ten people, each with different specialisms, and there is always someone to talk to and who will support you.
I was offered a mentor through the graduate framework, but I didn’t take this up because I wanted to form relationships more naturally. I built up a particularly good rapport with my first placement manager and with our site director and can talk to them about anything. My mentoring relationship with the site director happened fortuitously; he came to give a talk to graduates, I bumped into him in the carpark and we got talking and set up a meeting. In this company, you are really encouraged to get to know senior people.
3. Finding out about me
The framework’s ‘Graduate Developing You’ course is particularly useful. It teaches you about your strengths, how best you work and how to interact with others who work differently from you. I’ve learned that I am naturally quite introverted and work best when left to get on with a project – I hadn’t known that before, but it’s given me insights into how to reach my goals.
4. Support to reach my goals
My immediate goal is to become a chartered engineer (CEng) and BAE Systems supports this. My graduate intake is the first to take a new masters-level postgraduate engineering apprenticeship with Cranfield University, which will lead to a postgraduate diploma in engineering competence. It is designed to help us gain chartership more quickly. All of the training has been beneficial and will aid in my overall goal of achieving CEng registration.
5. Giving back
I am passionate about encouraging people into engineering. BAE Systems has helped me to do this through the ‘stretch’ assignments that are part of our graduate scheme. I have chosen to be involved with the early careers programme: going into schools to inspire students about engineering, looking after our school work experience students and attending university career fairs. It is good to use a different skill set.
6. A flexible social life
I enjoy the social life with other graduates on the site, including those in the intake year above, and it is good when we meet up on other sites for training. The flexitime scheme is really good too: it means that I can leave earlier to go to Arsenal games!