Working for the Arms Trade

A worker for a company that produces arms in the South West of England shares his views  about his experience and the potential of renewable energies.


A BAE apprentice at the Farnborough Arms Fair.

How did you come to work for an arms company?

Mostly thanks to their efficiency – I was applying to any firm I could think of that did engineering, and the two first replies and interviews were both with arms companies. My current employer offered me a job before most others had even asked me to interview. I was just happy to get a job.

Do you have ethical concerns about your job?

I regularly question what I’m doing here. If I had found an alternative I’d have left by now. I knew other people in my intake who, like me, had just got into the first apprenticeship that would take them. However, there were also definitely some who had specifically chosen the role because it is an arms firm and they perceived the technology to be more interesting, or just to ‘support our lads’.

Our research estimates that moving towards renewable energy could produce nearly twice as many jobs as the arms trade. Do you think arms companies workers would welcome this?

I’m not sure about skilled manual workers, but I imagine that engineers would probably be quite flexible. There would need to be a lot of education about what work with renewables is like for them to welcome the move.

Most people are in a similar situation to me – tied down to a house, likely to have a family, enjoying the day-to-day work they do (ignoring the end product), and cautious about what work outside the company they could get. It’s a concern I have myself – can I find a similar job elsewhere? Never-mind a similar job that pays something in the region of what I’m on now (I would take a pay cut for the right role, but can only afford to lose so much), I’m just struggling to find a similar role at the moment. Education, particularly if it comes via Trade Union involvement, would help a lot.

Every year the arms trade spends a great deal on trying to recruit graduates. Do you think this can be challenged?

The first step is to try and get the names of firms that work in renewables into public consciousness. Even now, the only firm I can think of that I’m certain manufactures renewable technology is Siemens, and it’s not their only interest. Showing that the technology is cutting edge and pushing boundaries would help too. Also, while it’s not necessarily the top of the list in the current jobs climate, work satisfaction is definitely important.

See our pages on Arms To Renewables to learn more about the benefits of renewable energies over arms companies.​

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