Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has welcomed news that a leading employer is training a record number of apprentices as he marked 2017 as the 'Year of the Royal Navy'.
Almost 300 apprentices will join BAE Systems in Barrow – a partner of Choose Cumbria – to work on the new Dreadnought-class submarines and four remaining Astute-class submarines.
More than 2,000 apprentices are being trained across the defence giant's sites across the country as part of the Successor programme which launched in October.
The engineering firm, which employs workers from across Cumbria, also has plans to recruit another 574 apprentices, starting September 2017, as it is predicted that 5,000 members of staff will be working on the programme in the early 2020s.
The news comes as Sir Michael Fallon declared 2017 as the start of a new era of maritime power, projecting Britain's influence globally and delivering security at home.
Sir Michael said: "2017 is set to be the Year of the Royal Navy, with thousands of our naval personnel involved in operations to ensure our shores are kept safe.
"I am therefore delighted that a record number of apprentices are being trained to build the next fleet of nuclear-powered submarines in Barrow.
"Cumbria has a proud history of ship-building. Thousands are employed at Barrow and a very significant part of its workforce from the towns and villages of Copeland.
"This government is investing billions in growing the Royal Navy for the first time in a generation with new aircraft carriers, nuclear deterrent submarines, attack submarines, frigates, patrol vessels and aircraft all on their way."
Roughly a quarter of BAE Systems' most recent apprentice intake are women and 3.5 per cent are also from ethnic minority groups.
It is hoped that even higher numbers will join in 2017 as the company strives to achieve better diversity among its engineering population.
Nigel Whitehead, group managing director at BAE Systems said: "This is a really exciting time to join BAE Systems as an apprentice.
"We offer a unique training experience and unrivalled opportunities to progress through our organisation regardless of background.
"Many of our senior directors began their careers as apprentices and we pride ourselves on rewarding ability and commitment.
"The quality of the training we are able to offer also reflects the dedication of the hundreds of BAE Systems employees who train apprentices in the workplace - passing on their unique knowledge, expertise and experience to the next generation."
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