June 12, 2012

In Great Britain, students as young as 14 will soon begin hands-on training for careers in business aviation thanks to a new type of educational institution being set up throughout the country with the support of major players in British industry.

Heathrow Aviation Engineering UTC, which is set to open next year, is sponsored by Brunel University, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, the Royal Air Force, Northwood and Queensmead Schools and Uxbridge College. There, students will train for careers in general and commercial aviation.

“Aviation will benefit because students will be better prepared generally to enter the aviation industry either directly or via university,” said Peter Mitchell, chief executive of the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, which is developing a system of more than 30 University Technical Colleges (UTCs) throughout Great Britain.

According to UTC officials, a key feature of the college is that it will provide “an excellent grounding in mathematics, science and engineering in a practical context for both 14-16 and 16-19 age groups. It will connect relevant Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications directly to the worlds of research, deeper learning and employment. The students who graduate from the UTC will be technically competent, highly employable, confident, articulate lifelong learners, well prepared for fulfilling adult lives.”

Paul Holliday, chief financial officer at the QED Trust, which will provide much of the infrastructure for the Heathrow Aviation Engineering UTC, said, “Since we formed the Project Team, the partners have identified the business jet market as a priority area to explore as more and more companies have these available as a resource. Company-owned planes fly in and out of London Heathrow and the small, local airfield at Northolt. We want to address the need for skilled maintenance engineers to support this important market. Our UTC will train young people to follow a number of pathways in their adult lives, from basic mechanics, through fully qualified maintenance engineers to aircraft design and other professional careers.”

Industry leaders also are enthusiastic. In a letter of support to the UTC, Sundeep Sangha, economic development manager at Heathrow Airport in London, said, “Enrollment at the UTC would be an ideal preparation for Heathrow engineering apprenticeships that provide young people with the skills needed to become electrical, mechanical or electronic technicians. Heathrow’s work touches on almost every area of airport life, from day-to-day security to strategy and investment in some of the U.K.’s busiest airports.”

Heathrow Aviation students will be among approximately 20,000 young Britons expected to forego a traditional education in favor of UTC training. During their first two years, their studies will be split approximately 60/40, focusing more on traditional courses like English, math, science and physical education. The other 40 percent of their time will be spent learning more about aviation.

The Baker Dearing Trust said that, beginning at age 16, the ratio of traditional education versus practical education will be reversed. Students will spend more time learning about aviation and will even be offered apprenticeships.