This year British Airways (BA) has honoured its longest serving former apprentice to mark the start of National Apprenticeship Week.

For more than seven decades Keith Hayward, 86, has served the airline where he started out as a traffic apprentice for its predecessor, British South American Airways.

With red, white and blue running through his veins since 1945, even today he can be seen hard at work as a volunteer at the BA Heritage Centre at Waterside.

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Through his years of flying the flag for BA he has witnessed the first flight from Heathrow airport, operated by a Lancastrian, to flying royalty around the world.

Today, as the heart and soul of the airline, he can be found overseeing the all important archives as well as introducing new recruits to the carrier’s long and illustrious history.

Mr Hayward said: “British Airways has a proud history of offering apprenticeships and I’m living proof that it can be the first step to a long and successful career.

“In my current role, I particularly enjoy meeting new apprentices and relating to their enthusiasm and awe as they embark on their training programmes with the airline.”

Does BA have the best apprenticeship scheme?

On Monday (March 14), the start of National Apprentice Week, BA will open up 140 apprenticeship places to school leavers on one of its seven programmes which range from head office to engineering.

Karen Hewitt, BA apprentice and graduate manager, said: “Apprenticeships are an excellent way to introduce talent to the work place. You can learn new skills and gain vital on-the-job experience, all while earning a wage.

"We are particularly proud of the retention rate of our apprentices – the majority of whom gain employment with the airline after their programme ends.

"A shining example of our success in retaining apprentices is of course Keith Hayward, still here after 70 years – a sign that British Airways could well have the best apprenticeship scheme in the UK!”

Last week British Airways celebrated International Women's Day by inviting female students to quiz the airline's engineering team from managers to apprentices.

Ellie Haran, who is currently on the Head Office apprenticeship scheme, added: “Joining British Airways as an apprentice was exactly the right decision for me.

"I was keen to join the workforce rather than continue in formal education – yet I still wanted some support to learn what was required to build a successful career.

"The first few months of my apprenticeship have been fantastic – I’ve planned and managed events and even been on a trip to one of our charity projects in Cape Town.”

Further information on apprenticeships at British Airways can be found at BA Careers.