• Article
  • 26 Mar 2024
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Adam Stockley

UK’s New Space Apprenticeship Scheme Seeks to Close Skills Gap

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Earlier this month, we discussed the role of apprenticeships in aerospace and their continued relevance as a route into the industry. Aerospace is a well-developed industry in the UK, with numerous paths into employment. However, the same is not yet true for the comparatively novel British space industry.


Luckily, though, BAE Systems recently announced a new degree apprenticeship scheme specifically for space systems. Let’s look at what this involves and what it’ll mean for the future of the industry.

BAE Systems’ Degree Apprenticeship

The new BAE degree apprenticeship is being launched in collaboration with the University of Portsmouth. Apprentices will receive a combined in-class and on-the-job education that involves completing a bachelor’s degree in Space Systems Engineering. During this four-and-a-half-year degree, apprentices will also learn on the job with BAE.

The degree itself will focus on the types of theory you’d expect, such as CAD, mission design, materials and manufacturing, space science, telecommunications, and more. The practical side of the apprenticeship will involve hands-on work at BAE’s sites in Guildford and Alton, focusing on mission analysis, software development, attitude and orbit control systems, and electronics.

There are several benefits to entering the industry through the apprenticeship route. First, it’s impossible to overstate the advantage of learning from talented individuals on the job at their work sites. Space engineering is both very theoretical and highly practical and benefits from seeing how things work in the real world.

Also, this course specifically has been built by leading experts, including government representatives and industry leaders. As such, it not only focuses on current cutting-edge trends but is also well-positioned to pivot to emerging technologies in the future.

Addressing the Skills Gap

We’ve spoken at length in the past about the UK’s desire to level up its space sector. However, as a government survey published in September 2023 shows, there is a notable skills gap holding the industry back.

The survey found that 51% of space-related organisations reported skills gaps in their workforce. This rose to 65% for large organisations, although both of these figures are lower than the UK economy as a whole (73%).

Importantly, these skills gaps can be found mainly in tech-related areas, such as AI and machine learning and data analysis. This should hardly come as a surprise, as these sectors are fairly novel, despite having carved out a vital niche in the near future of space operations.

This data should highlight the need for apprenticeship schemes such as the one offered by BAE. Arguably the easiest way to address the skills gap is from the ground up by training new entrants to understand and work with these new technologies. Data analysis isn’t new, but the way we analyse and manipulate it constantly changes.

What Other Schemes Exist?

BAE’s apprenticeship scheme isn’t the only option. In 2023, the Department for Education launched a Level 6 Space Systems scheme with Airbus – the same level as BAE’s. Oxfordshire Advanced Skills has a Level 4 Space Technician Apprenticeship, and UK Space has further information about early career opportunities.

We’ll likely see even more schemes pop up over the next few years. The industry has plenty of data regarding skills gaps and future trends, so it shouldn’t be too long until this is converted into courses that open up the UK’s space industry.