BAE Systems struggling to fill jobs at Clyde shipyards due to 'nationwide skills shortage'

Scotland's biggest shipbuilder is struggling to recruit workers despite having a full order book that will sustain it over the next decade.

BAE Systems - which operates the historic Govan and Scotstoun yards on the Clyde - is currently working flat out to produce eight Type 26 frigates for the Royal Navy.

But a senior boss at the defence giant this week warned a nationwide shortage of skills meant the business still had dozens of unfilled vacancies.

Simon Lister, head of BAE's naval ships division, said the company was now investing heavily in its apprentice programme to plug gaps in its workforce.

Experienced steelworkers are in particular short supply with defence contractors across the UK struggling to recruit adequate numbers.

The Record was one of a handful of media titles to be given a behind-the-scenes tour of the famous Govan shipyard this week.

"Covid's impact is still felt in the yard but we are rapidly getting that behind us," Lister said.

"In terms of skills, we still have vacancies in the yard. We are keen to fill those and rebuild the workforce both in skills and numbers.

"And to that end we are training a lot of graduates and apprentices every year for the next four or five years to plug that gap.

"Maybe Brexit has had an affect. But there is a global, nationwide lack of skills in the United Kingdom.

"We are keen to make sure that we give everyone the opportunity to join the yard and develop skills that perhaps they hadn't thought of before. Even later on in their careers to come back and retrain and join this work."

HMS Glasgow, the first of the new Type 26 frigates, is currently being fitted out at Scotstoun and is due to be handed over to the Royal Navy in the "mid-2020s".

HMS Cardiff, the second of the advanced anti-submarine vessels, is still being worked on in Govan and will be floated out to Scotstoun later this year.

Lister said that while the Type 26 programme would keep the yards busy until well into the 2030s the company was already planning ahead.

Among future naval programmes it may bid for work on include the multi-Role support ship (MRSS)

Lister added: "We are very interested in contributing to MRSS, or the early phases of Type 83 if that is mooted, or whatever the MOD chooses as the next project.

"We will be looking for additional work for our engineers in three, four years' time. As those skills are important to maintain.

"The operational skills are maintained for longer. We have eight, nine years of steel work ahead of us. We'll slow down a little if there is no prospect of another class of ship."

BAE is currently building a new "shipbuilding academy" close to its Scotstoun yard as part of its drive to train more apprentices.

It will provide bespoke training for almost 4,500 employees at the two Clyde yards, including nearly 700 apprentices.

To sign up to the Daily Record Politics newsletter, click here