Clive Higgins:
My apprenticeship journey.

06 February 2023

After joining the company’s Yeovil apprentice programme in 1994, Clive Higgins worked in senior roles across the business before becoming a member of Leonardo’s UK leadership team. He recently accepted the role of Chair and CEO ad interim for the UK.

Ahead of National Apprenticeship Week, Clive spoke to us about the importance of the skills developed during his apprenticeship and how they have served him through his career with Leonardo.

When did you join Leonardo?

I joined GKN Westland Helicopters (before it was renamed Leonardo) in the autumn of 1994 as an Advanced Modern Apprentice in Mechanical Engineering. The apprenticeship was a four-year programme with Year 1 based full-time at Yeovil College. For the first year, we were full-time students and I recall that we had to pass Year 1, which included both vocational and academic elements, in order to progress to the next years and work in the facility at Yeovil.

At school, I studied Maths, English, Science, Craft Design & Technology, French, History, Geography, Craft Design Realisation and Craft Design Communication, subjects with a strong technical underpinning and which supported me in applying for and undertaking an apprenticeship of the type offered by the Company.

Why was an apprenticeship the right path for your career development?

At the time, I recall not being fully assured of the path I wished to take. I did not feel higher education was the correct route for me, even though initially my tutors at school suggested this would be the best direction. I wanted the opportunity to work and of course earn some money, but also develop vocational and academic skills in an environment outside of the classroom. I felt joining an organisation such as Leonardo would provide those opportunities.

What did your apprenticeship involve?

In Year 1 of the apprenticeship we were taught the basic skills to support our future activities as apprentices in the organisation and skilled employees. The academic element focused on further maths, mechanical engineering, manufacturing and project work, which was delivered on day release basis and included night school.

The vocational element covered a broad range of activities in the workshop including machining, electronics and fabrication to name a few.

What did you enjoy most about the apprenticeship?

The friends and colleagues. Leaving school is quite a daunting time; you leave the reality and existence you have been used to for a number years and start afresh with new people and in new environments. However, you quickly make new friendships and relationships that endure for a number of years and potentially the rest of one’s working career and life.

How do you believe an apprenticeship prepared you for your current role?

Following completion of my apprenticeship, I had many career aspirations, all of which I’ve been able to achieve through hard work, dedication and commitment. Looking ahead, I’m extremely keen to create a working environment where others can fulfil their potential, while continuing to drive and promote the next-generation technologies and platforms we develop at Leonardo.

What would you say to anyone considering an apprenticeship at Leonardo?

There so many fantastic opportunities here at Leonardo for those who work hard and demonstrate commitment and enthusiasm.

In addition to your education, you benefit from being part of a supportive team, learning from industry experts and using the skills you acquire to develop the ground-breaking technologies of the future or impact the business's strategic direction, depending upon which career path you choose.

Use your apprenticeship to accept opportunities; it’s easy to say ‘no’ to things, however the more you say ‘no’, the less chances arise in the future. Try saying ‘yes’! 


Leonardo offers amazing job opportunities for experienced hires, as well as award-winning programmes for people at the start of their careers.

Leonardo's award-winning graduate training programme is designed to support your first steps after leaving university and help you develop your career.

Highly-regarded programmes offering intensive training lasting 2-4 years, with apprentices gaining a substantial depth of skills in their specialist area.