NEARLY 250 apprentices are being given the chance to kick-start their careers at BAE Systems in Barrow.

Prime Minister Theresa May has praised the defence giants as they revealed plans to recruit 700 youngsters across its UK businesses - including 235 in South Cumbria.

“I’m delighted that BAE Systems is taking on even more apprentices in 2019, with 700 young people being given the opportunity to kick-start their careers in this world-class firm," she said.

“Britain’s businesses have a hugely important role to play in training the next generation and themselves benefit by attracting diverse talent and improving their skills base.

"Through our modern Industrial Strategy we will encourage even more partnerships to create high-quality jobs across the UK.”

The announcement follows the opening of a state-of-the-art £25m training academy earlier this month at the Barrow site by defence secretary Gavin Williamson

It covers 89,340 sq ft and was built to develop the world-class engineering skills required to design, build and deliver complex submarine programmes to the Royal Navy. Featuring classrooms, workshops, a virtual reality suite and scale-model sized submarine units, the academy will provide bespoke training to almost 9,000 employees.

The apprenticeship boost was also welcomed by Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock.

“This is a major commitment by the company that underscores its confidence in the ability of our young people to design and construct the most sophisticated nuclear submarines in the world," he said.

“These 235 apprenticeships mean secure, fulfilling and well-paid careers for our youngsters who will stay in this area and contribute to our communities."

And Barrow Council leader Dave Pidduck said: “Any news that helps young people to get into the world of work and to make progress from that through qualifications as well is absolutely wonderful. We are a manufacturing town and we build the most complex things on god’s green earth. It’s what we do.”

The recruitment drive is a 30 per cent increase on the previous year.

The new recruits will join the air, land and maritime businesses in September 2019 and will embark on one of 25 training programmes, which provide the opportunity to combine full time employment with studying for a recognised qualification.

Charles Woodburn, chief executive officer at BAE Systems, said: “We are proud to be one of the UK’s largest employers of apprentices and our plan to recruit nearly 700 apprentices next year reflects our ongoing commitment to nurturing talent and developing high end skills. With technology becoming ever more advanced and integrated in the workplace, it is crucial that we train the next generation of engineers and business leaders to develop the necessary skills which will be needed to drive innovation, solve complex challenges and build on our position as one of the UK’s most innovative and productive companies.”