Atomic Weapons Establishment Plc

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Atomic Weapons Establishment Plc's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Atomic Weapons Establishment Plc is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Managing Director IainCoucher
AWE apprentices –
investing in the future
AWE manufactures, maintains and assures the warheads
for the UK’s nuclear deterrent. “Put simply,” says CEO
and Managing Director, Iain Coucher, “we make the
weapons that deter the most extreme threats to our security
and way of life.” AWE’s contract with the government is held
by AWE Management Limited, a joint venture of Lockheed
Martin, Jacobs and Serco, and the organisation works closely
with the MOD’s Defence Nuclear Organisation to ensure
capability is sustained in the future. Iain tells
The Parliamentary
about the UK’s nuclear deterrent and elaborates on the
role AWE plays.
The current UK government’s nuclear deterrence model is to operate and maintain
a “continuous at sea deterrent”. This requires that there is always at least one
Royal Navy ballistic missile submarine, armed with Trident D5 missiles, on a covert
patrol, at all times and ready to respond. The missiles themselves are sourced from
a pool the UK shares with the US Navy and are subsequently combined with the
warheads AWE manufactures at Aldermaston and Burghfield. Given the materials
we work with, the information we are custodians of, and the product we make,
security and safety are at the core of everything we do.
Beyond this, we also contribute to arms control and efforts to stop the proliferation
of weapons. We monitor seismic and airborne signals for nuclear weapons tests
around the world and our scientists and engineers support the government in
nonproliferation, arms control, nuclear and radiological counterterrorism and
nuclear emergency response. This is known as “Nuclear Threat Reduction”.
»CEO and Managing Director:
»Established in 1987 from the
merger of the Atomic Weapons
Research Establishment and
two Royal Ordnance Factories
»Based in Aldermaston,
»Services: Manufacture of the
warheads that enable the
UK’s nuclear deterrent as well
as supporting nuclear threat
»No. of employees: 6,000
Atomic Weapons
Establishment Plc
Highlighting best practice
To deliver the mission, our people solve
unique and complex manufacturing
and scientific challenges, such as
assuring the safety and effectiveness of
the nation’s warheads without carrying
out nuclear testing. But the challenge
of needing such unique, rare skills lies
in recruiting, training and sustaining
enough scientific, engineering and
production staff.
We employ around 6,000 people.
Approximately 1,700 of these are
scientists, engineers and technologists,
making it one of the largest science
and engineering employers in the
country. Our production facilities rely
on the efforts, skills and dedication of
a further 1,500. We recruit roughly
100 graduates and 100 apprentices
a year and are rated by Ofsted
as an “outstanding” provider of
Our relationships with academia, the
High Value Manufacturing Catapults,
and our supply chain are invaluable.
We sponsor 115 PhDs in 25 of the best
universities in Britain, five of which we
maintain strategic partnerships with.
We spend more than £600 million
through our supply chain each year,
of which 94 per cent is spent in the
UK. Underlining our commitment to
supporting our local economy, half
of this is spent within 25 miles of our
base at Aldermaston.
Inclusion and diversity are critical to the
success of our business – we can only
recruit UK citizens, so we must make
sure we can take the best the country
has to offer, regardless of background,
gender, sexuality, ethnicity or any
form of disability. We are encouraging
more women to enter STEM sectors by
implementing the Ten Steps approach
from WISE – Women in Science and
Engineering – and by working the
Education Business Partnership West
Berkshire on the “Getting Girls into
High Tech Business” programme.
We have won awards for our work
on neurodiversity, raising awareness
of autism and obsessive compulsive
disorder with our colleagues and
our vetting officers. Beyond this, we
provide a STEM outreach programme
to 80 local schools and are one of the
founding sponsors of the Basingstoke
Consortium’s Skillstree programme,
an initiative designed to champion the
importance of employability of young
people in our local area.
These efforts and others led to us
being recognised as one of the Top
25 Big Businesses To Work For in
2019, according to
The Sunday Times
Best Companies ranking. We are also
ranked seventh in
The Guardian
’s top
300 graduate employers for research
and development.
Improving staff engagement
Recruiting talented people is only part
of our challenge. In order to adapt to
the changing national and international
business and political environments, we
have to ensure we retain our staff and
help them achieve their full potential.
Key to this, and a recent success, is our
strategy for staff engagement.
In 2009, a BIS report by David McLeod
and Nita Clark produced an evidence
base for the business impacts of
staff engagement. It finds that staff
engagement, which can be measured
through surveys, contributes to greater
organisational productivity, individual
performance, safety and security in
AWE works in
partnership to improve
access to STEM careers
The challenge
lies in
training and
Following a period of re-contracting and
restructuring, and during episodes of
industrial action, our staff engagement
scores had been declining. Recognising
the risk to the business and the mission,
we launched a new engagement
strategy with five key objectives:
»Creating a visible and empowering
leadership with strong strategic
narrative – reshaping the
Executive team and our leadership
development programmes;
»Engaging managers and helping
them understand development
needs using “MC3” – a Best
Companies tool that identifies
employee perceptions about
manager performance;
»Celebrating and reinforcing cultural
identity and values;
»Improving internal communications
and instating a regular programme of
business briefings for allemployees;
»Continuing to engage with trades
unions and creating a new two-way
and non-hierarchical communication
channel called “Employee Voice”
which meets regularly with the CEO
and executive team.
Each year that this strategy has
run, we’ve seen progress in our
engagement scores using the Best
Companies survey and comparisons
– entering the “Ones to Watch”
group. We’ve seen the most marked
improvements in the areas of “fair
deal”, “giving back” and “wellbeing”.
Continuing to develop
Promoting engagement is central
to our ongoing strategy - further
articulating our mission and the values
of what we do. By doing this, we aim
to build and maintain a culture of
high performance, proving continuous
development to help people gain
the skills they need to build their
career. As well as our programmes
for new entrants on graduate and
apprenticeship programmes, we provide
extensive technical, professional and
management training programmes, as
well as opportunities to take on exciting
secondary roles in national security.
We recognise that investing in
leadership skills has the ability to
transform engagement and in turn,
performance. We now offer a pathway
of development, from first level
leaders, to mid-level leaders, and then
a regular programme of leadership
development for our senior staff.
By continuing to build our employee
offer and strengthening our
relationships with our partners, we
are confident that we can meet the
challenges of providing the warheads
for the UK’s nuclear deterrent for
decades to come.
We spend
more than
£600 million
through our
supply chain
each year, of
which 94 per
cent is spent
in the UK
A wide range of roles
supporting national

This article was sponsored by Atomic Weapons Establishment Plc. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss

Even by the standards of the day –this has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable years in British politics.

The leadership election we’ve just seen marks a huge moment in our country’s history. This government is taking a decisive new direction, embracing the opportunities of Brexit and preparing our country to flourish outside the EU.

As international trade secretary, I’ll be driving forward work on the free trade agreements that are going to be a priority for the government. Free trade isn’t just an abstract concept bandied around by technocrats. It is crucial for a strong economy and for the ability of families to make ends meet. Free trade benefits people in every part of our country, as British firms export to new markets and people doing the weekly shop have access to a wider choice of goods at lower prices.

The essence of free trade is in the title: freedom. It’s about giving people the power to exchange their goods without heavy government taxation or interference. Commerce and free exchange are the engine room of prosperity and social mobility. I’m determined to tackle the forces who want to hold that back.

One of my priorities is agreeing an exciting new free trade deal with the US, building on the great relationship between our two countries and the Prime Minister and US President. But I’ll also be talking to other partners including New Zealand, Australia and fast-growing Asian markets.

And with the EU too, we want a friendly and constructive relationship, as constitutional equals, and as friends and partners in facing the challenges that lie ahead – a relationship based on a deep free trade agreement. Our country produces some of the world’s most successful exports, and the opportunity to bring these to the rest of the world should make us all excited about the future. It is this excitement, optimism and ambition which I believe will come to define this government.

For too long now, we have been told Britain isn’t big or important enough to survive outside the EU – that we have to accept a deal that reflects our reduced circumstances. I say that’s rubbish. With the right policies in place, we can be the most competitive, free-thinking, prosperous nation on Earth exporting to the world and leading in new developments like AI. To do that, we’ll give the brilliant next generation of entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed. Since 2015, there has been a staggering 85 per cent rise in the number of businesses set up by 18 to 24 year olds – twice the level set up by the same age group in France and Germany. We’ll help them flourish by championing enterprise, cutting taxes and making regulation flexible and responsive to their needs.

As we do that, we’ll level up and unite all parts of the UK with great transport links, fibre broadband in every home and proper school funding, so everyone shares in our country’s success.

2019 has been the year of brewing economic and political revolution. 2020 will be the year when a revitalised Conservative government turbo charges the economy, boosts prospects for people across the country, and catapults Britain back to the forefront of the world stage.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss
Secretary of State for International Development