Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Giving High-Flyers the Tools of the Trade

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Giving High-Flyers the Tools of the Trade

Article excerpt

Six years ago, airline Flybe asked Exeter College for help to train prospective employees - and the alliance has proved a huge success

When Exeter College started offering specialist training to the staff of the Flybe airline in 2008, no one realised just how much the relationship would grow.

Six years later, the college and the low-cost carrier have developed a unique partnership. Together they offer two bespoke courses, one in aircraft engineering and the other in travel and tourism, which includes a cabin crew qualification.

As well as using the college's purpose-built facilities, students on the courses spend part of their time at the Flybe Training Academy, based at nearby Exeter International Airport, using the same tools and equipment as the airline's employees.

And, uniquely, the engineering students are even given access to the airline's hangar, where they can hone their skills by helping to repair active aircraft in the Flybe fleet. The four-year course is designed to lead directly to employment and so far every graduate has gained a job in the airline industry.

Ian Fitzpatrick, Exeter College's assistant principal and its former head of engineering, aerospace and automotive studies, says that Flybe originally approached the college to help with staff courses, including business improvement and leadership and management training.

"From that initial relationship, they came to us and said they had identified a need to train and recruit new engineers," he says. "It's a sector that has an ageing workforce and they wanted to develop a succession-planning process to keep their business sustainable. Exeter is their main maintenance facility in the UK, but they found that a lot of the people applying for jobs were university graduates who had a lot of knowledge but little hands-on experience. We worked with them to design and develop a bespoke programme to help meet their needs."

The four-year programme includes a BTEC diploma in aircraft engineering, a foundation degree in aircraft engineering (delivered in partnership with Kingston University) and the European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) licence to work on aircraft.

Applicants must have at least five GCSEs at grades A* to C, including English, maths and a science subject, but the college is not necessarily looking for those with the highest marks.

Chris Lewis, the institution's aerospace training manager, says: "What we really want are students with a passion for aviation. A four-year course can be a long slog for a lot of students and, without that passion, it could be difficult.

"All of our instructors are industry-trained, having worked in either the military or the civilian airline industry. They don't just teach knowledge but bring real-life experience."

In their first year, students learn basic engineering skills, with the practical element of the programme delivered at the Flybe academy. They complete their BTEC in the second year and then start the EASA programme. In the third year, they move on to the foundation degree and spend a term in the hangars. They also have another two terms in the hangars in the fourth year to complete their foundation degree and gain their EASA licence.

Despite all these qualifications, the graduates will still have to complete a further 18 months of on-site practical training before they can gain their full licence. …

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