By Jonathan Davies

The UK's largest defence manufacturer has announced plans to create 2,000 apprenticeships.

BAE Systems already runs one of the country's largest apprenticeships programmes and employs 18,000 people in the North of England.

BAE Systems spends around £80 million per year training employees and investing in apprenticeships and education to develop its future workforce. The company also trains apprentices on behalf of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and suppliers in its UK supply chain.

Nigel Whitehead, BAE Systems’ Group Managing Director, Programmes & Support said: "BAE Systems designs, builds and supports some of the most complex capabilities for armed forces and security services around the world. Our employment of 2,000 apprentices by 2018 illustrates our commitment to ensure our workforce here in the UK remains amongst the best trained and qualified in our sector, anywhere in the world."

The Chancellor George Osborne, who visited BAE Systems as part of his post-Budget tour, said: "Britain’s great businesses have a hugely important role to play in training up the next generation and I was delighted to visit BAE systems, a company right at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse, to hear about their plans to create 2,000 new apprentices.

"We need a new system that encourages more employers to deliver high quality apprentices and this levy will help us make huge progress."

Ian King, Chief Executive, BAE Systems said: "We welcome the budget and its focus on long term prosperity, productivity and national security. The commitment of additional resources for defence and security, including the pledge to spend 2% of national income on defence and the creation of a joint security fund, are particularly encouraging. BAE Systems is committed to delivering the capabilities our customers need whilst providing value for money for taxpayers."