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Leonardo welcomes Yeovil College to Team AW149 UK as its first ‘community member’, representing skills and early career opportunities

Other Team AW149 UK supply chain members around the country are also highlighting their educational links with local communities, showing the value of helicopters being made-in-Britain

Leonardo has expanded Team AW149 UK, the national alliance of onshore supply chain members supporting the company’s bid to provide its latest-generation military AW149 helicopter to the UK Armed Forces. Going beyond the core supply chain for the AW149, Leonardo is widening the team to include members from across its communities who will also benefit should the UK opt for a helicopter built in Yeovil, the ‘Home of British Helicopters’. Leonardo is proud to welcome Yeovil College as the first Team AW149 UK Community Member.
Leonardo and Yeovil College have a mutually beneficial relationship that has reached nearly 60 years. Thousands of Leonardo trainees and employees have been educated at the College in the South West of England. Working in tandem, Leonardo can secure a highly skilled workforce of tomorrow through the innovative and leading apprentice programmes at Yeovil College.
In the 2021-22 academic year, Yeovil College supported 254 engineering apprentices across all years: 127 of these were Leonardo apprentices, equating to 50% of the programme. Significantly, the College also provides support to other organisations across the Leonardo supply chain and to other local employers with precision engineering and metalwork apprentices benefitting from similar qualifications and skills delivery. The overall Leonardo investment and its associated supply chain in engineering apprenticeships represents around £1.2 million of income to Yeovil College each year. This year Leonardo in Yeovil has almost 160 trainees across scheme. Across the UK, Leonardo is planning to hire an additional 300 early career trainees in 2023.
Mark Bolton, CEO and Principal at Yeovil College, commented, “We are delighted to join Leonardo’s Team AW149 UK as one of its leading community members. Yeovil College and Leonardo have been working together for nearly six decades. One example of our close partnership is we work with Leonardo to implement the Level 6 Engineering Degree programme into its trainee schemes. This was set up by the College with Leonardo and the University of Plymouth with specific units originally designed to meet Leonardo requirements (e.g. Computer Aided Engineering for Composites).’’ Lynda McVay, Director of Skills and Capability at Leonardo, said, “Leonardo is increasing its early careers population by 50% over the coming year. Across the UK, we plan to hire an additional 300 apprentices, bringing the total number of young people on our early careers schemes to 900. The success of this initiative, amongst others, will be helped by the great partnerships we have with local education leaders, like Yeovil College.”
Supply chain members of Team AW149 UK, Aerco, Chelton, Ford Aerospace and RDDS, are also highly engaged within the communities they operate in, working closely with young people through STE[A]M (Science Technology [Arts] Engineering Mathematics) initiatives and supporting local educational partnerships.
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For example, Aerco, based in Horsham, West Sussex, hires many young people straight from school without degrees and trains individuals with the skills to succeed in the aerospace engineering industry. An example of this is Jack Tysoe, aged 19, who was working in retail before he joined Aerco. Jack now works in the company’s workshop. Jack has gained extensive knowledge on how to assemble connectors, from franchises such as AB to Smiths Interconnect.
One of Chelton’s focus areas is the recruitment of women into engineering roles and it does so by promoting STEM topics in local schools to help inspire the next generation of innovators and inventors. This year, in aid of Women in Engineering Day, a team of female engineers at the Company visited a school in the local Buckinghamshire area to share the opportunities, challenges, and excitement that comes with their roles every day. The engineers expressed how diversity in the workplace is crucial in order to learn from each other and perform to the best ability.
Ford Aerospace, based in South Shields, Tyne and Wear, set up the Ford Engineering Academy in 2013 in partnership with a local college. The Academy runs Traineeships for young people considering a career in engineering. The course is designed to get trainees ‘work ready’, helping to develop the attitude, skills, and knowledge of the individuals for an engineering role. The six-month courses in Performing Engineering Operations also include a 2-6-week placement at a local engineering firm to put their skills into practice in the workplace and learn the reality of an aerospace engineering environment.
The Ford Engineering Academy produces between 40 and 70 graduates per year for the North East engineering community, with a large proportion going into apprenticeships and employment with local businesses upon graduation. Looking to the future, the senior team at Ford Aerospace are also in talks with the newly-formed North East Institute of Technology (NEIoT) about rolling the Academy model out across the region to help encourage the development of many more young engineers.
RDDS in the Kent area is actively promoting STEM (Engineering) through exhibition fairs to schools (typically year 8 to year 12) by having a representative member of the team explaining to students how various engineering disciplines can work together in the development of a complex system with several interacting parts. In the past five years, four graduates have joined the company. RDDS has funded one engineer through an apprenticeship and Bachelor’s Degree and the company is currently supporting one employee through a university scheme.
Leonardo recognises that its innovation starts with its people. The company supports its employees at every level of their career in order to realise and optimise their capability, whether that is through academic study and qualification, or skills development.

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