The defence industry kicked into gear around the time of the First World War when it was realised that the country needed a more integrated approach to the manufacture of munitions bound for the front. Nowadays the UK’s defence industry is worth billions of pounds both domestically and in exports and spending and has resumed an upward trajectory.
It is worth remembering that while the UK Government has, broadly speaking, cut back on defence spending, there are a number of governments who rely on the UK arms industry for defence contracts. There are also a great many opportunities abroad where there is a worldwide shortage of graduates with suitable technology and engineering skills. Service-leavers with experience in using and maintaining defence technology could find themselves much sought after.
Russia, France, Israel and the Netherlands can boast some of the fastest growing defence companies in the world but other emerging markets in the Middle East, Asia and South America, where defence budgets are growing, could be viable options for Service-leavers with a sense of adventure and adaptable language skills.
For those who would prefer something closer to home, the UK Government has recently resolved to renew its Trident nuclear deterrent, resulting in a boon for many in the defence industry, not least BAE Systems. The world’s third largest defence contractor – and the largest in the UK – is already producing Astute-class attack submarines and will transition straight into the four nuclear attack craft in 2020, a perfect opportunity for graduates and Service-leavers to step into the industry on one of the largest defence projects ever undertaken in the UK.
The defence industry isn’t all rivets and bolts and there are a great number of opportunities outside of the assembly line. Engineers, especially those with experience of having used Military equipment on the front line, are sought after as companies look to design the future of warfare. The sector demands skills in aeronautical, avionic, civil, structural, mechanical, chemical, electrical, electronic and marine disciplines amongst others, making it an attractive prospect for qualified Service-leavers and even those looking to take on an apprenticeship.
In addition to the more manual skills involved in the defence industry, there are also myriad opportunities in IT. Fujitsu are one of the largest IT providers to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and their equipment ensures that, as far as possible, British soldiers are able to make the most of limited resources to fight increasingly technological wars. The rate of change in equipment on the battlefield is incredible and this sector could be incredibly rewarding for Service-leavers with the right mentality and qualifications.
The MoD is British industry’s largest single customer and spent, for example, approximately £19.5 billion with third parties in financial year 2013 to 2014. This amounts to between 40% and 45% of total government spend with third parties and it is important that the correct decisions are made when buying in both bespoke and so-called ‘off the shelf’ defence technologies. Experience of the frontline can only be helpful in this kind of role, allowing Service-leavers to use their lived experiences to ensure that technology – everything from jet fighters to sidearms – is fit for purpose for the Personnel who will be using it.