Training and Apprenticeships
Traditionally, the entry route to hands-on engineering in aircraft maintenance has been through apprenticeships in industry, with companies sponsoring the preparation for qualifications such as NVQ/HNC and the EASA-approved licences.
Companies who provide aircraft maintenance apprenticeships include Marshall Aerospace, Monarch Aircraft Engineering, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and Flybe. However, places are limited and competition can be very high. As well as having an interview, you will be asked to perform practical tests during the selection process using tools and materials such as sheet metal etc. to see whether you also have the manual dexterity, or 'hand skills' needed in the job.
Apprenticeships can be offered at one or all three of the following levels:
- School leavers
- Adult apprenticeships
Some companies specifically target adult apprentices from other engineering fields, such as automotive, where many of the skills are very transferable.
You usually need at least 5 GCSE (or equivalent) grades A*-C including Maths and English, and for higher-level entry routes, A levels/ BTEC/Scottish Highers or equivalent, or a degree for graduate programmes.
The RAF also offers excellent engineering training and roles working on state-of-the-art technology. School leavers can enter as Mechanical specialists in the General Technician trade who work on everything from heavy plant machinery to hydraulic lifts for aircraft. The RAF's technician training earns you a National Engineering Certificate at Level 3 and an Advanced Apprenticeship, including an NVQ Level 3. Qualifications required are 3 GCSEs/SCEs at Grade C/3 minimum or equivalent in English language, Maths and an approved science/technology-based subject. Joining age is usually between 16-29.
Graduates can apply for the RAF’s Engineer Officer route for which other professional qualifications are also considered (GCSE English grade C/3 minimum also required).
Many RAF technicians and engineering officers move into civil aircraft maintenance when they leave the armed services, with training grants often available for licensed engineering qualifications.
However, many airlines have slimmed down their aircraft maintenance divisions, transferring their engineering to work to other airlines or specialist maintenance companies, resulting in an overall decrease in apprenticeship opportunities. However, there are now seveal university courses which offer an alternative route into aircraft maintenance.
Kingston University has designed a series of academic courses from introductory to honours degree level combined with professional qualifications, working with KLM Engineering, BA Engineering, the Newcastle Aviation Academy and City of Bristol College.
The University of South Wales offers a three-year full-time BSc Aircraft Maintenance Engineering which also leads to an EASA Part-66 aircraft engineer licence. Both universities incorporate relevant work experience, an essential element of the qualification route for certified engineers.
National Apprenticeship Service www.apprentices.co.uk
Kingston University www.kingston.ac.uk
University of South Wales www.southwales.ac.uk