BAE Systems has partnered with Cranfield University to boost Britain's engineering skills through a new post-graduate engineering apprenticeship programme, which will provide learners with a valuable Masters-level qualification.

The first cohort of 76 engineers from BAE Systems will begin the academic element of their level 7 apprenticeship programme by undertaking modules including design-driven innovation, operations management and cost engineering. Modules will be carried out alongside the graduate engineers' day-to-day roles within the business.

Teaching will be delivered entirely online, through a combination of interactive video sessions with Cranfield's academics and remote online learning platforms, to provide the graduate engineers with the flexibility to study and acquire a Masters-level qualification without taking time out from work. On successful completion, the apprentices will obtain a Post-Graduate Diploma in Engineering Competence - a key step towards reaching Chartered Engineering (CEng) accreditation.

Further to the post-graduate apprentices, BAE Systems recruited just under 600 apprentices across its wider apprenticeships schemes in 2017 and reported record numbers of both female apprentices and apprentices with disabilities - making up 27% and 15% of recruits respectively. In addition, 18% of recruits came from the most socially deprived areas of the UK.

Richard Hamer, director of Education and Skills at BAE Systems, said: "We're excited to be the trailblazer for this new qualification and we're delighted that our graduate engineers are able to partner with such a prestigious institution as Cranfield. As part of our ongoing commitment to nurture talent and high-end skills, the postgraduate diploma in engineering competence will allow our graduate engineers to apply their learning in a work-based context, with the assessment focused on competency rather than academic ability."

Cranfield University is one of only five UK universities to have a strategic partnership with BAE Systems and is the first university in England to deliver Masters level apprenticeships.