Newcastle College’s Aviation Academy is proving to help careers take off, thanks to its close links with industry. 

Half of students graduating this July from Newcastle College University Centre’s (NCUC) BSc in Aircraft Maintenance Engineering have already secured their first jobs in aviation, with 12 of them landing a role at British Airways (BA). 

The Aviation Academy, based just off the runway at Newcastle International Airport, is the only dedicated facility of its kind in the region. Offering courses and training facilities for aeronautical engineering, aviation operations and cabin crew, students hone their skills in a 12,000m2 aircraft hangar, working on real aircraft. Last year, a brand-new Premier 1 Jet was installed at the facility, part of a £2million investment into STEM facilities at NCUC. 

Jim King, Aviation Engineering Curriculum Leader at Newcastle College, agrees that the hands-on experience the course provides is a big contributor to the success of its students, along with the first-class facilities. He said: “We have a unique set-up here at the Aviation Academy. The big airlines and aircraft engineering companies like our students because they are truly industry-ready; they’re not overawed when they walk into a large aircraft hangar on their first day, because they’re used to it. They’ve been spending time in a similar environment, working on and around real aircraft, every week since their first year on the course.” 

Thanks to its unique credentials, the Aviation Academy has forged strong links with industry, working closely with Newcastle International Airport and aviation giants including BA, which – in partnership with Shorterm Group – offers all graduating students the chance to be assessed for a potential interview with the company. This year, 12 students will be starting as a Junior Mechanic for BA at Glasgow Airport. 

The successful students include 35-year-old Mark Underwood, who said: “I applied for lots of positions outside of the College’s employer links but then BA invited me to an interview and offered me a Junior Mechanic position, which I’ll be starting in the summer. 

“I think part of the reason companies such as BA are interested in us is because while we’re doing our degree modules, we also complete some of the CAA modules towards our B1 Aircraft Maintenance Engineer's license, which you have to complete to be able to work as an aircraft mechanic.”

Emily Smith, aged 20, added: “The hands-on experience we get on this course has definitely prepared me for my job with BA, I think it’s the most important thing we do. The modules are very specific, and we put everything we learn into practice. I think that’s what makes us so employable.”

The Aviation Academy also enjoys close links with other well-known aviation companies, including JMI Aviation Group, Boeing, and BAE Systems, all of which have recruited students directly from Newcastle College this year.

21-year-old Robert Head will be joining Boeing, one of the largest aircraft manufacturing companies in the world, to review and update their aircraft maintenance paperwork, publications, and documentation. He explained: “I don’t think I would have got this job if I hadn’t had all the practical experience I’ve gained here, especially as I’ve been able to work on an actual Boeing 737 and a Premier 1 Jet. These were both big talking points in my interview.”

Max Elcoat, also 21, will be going to work with JMI Aviation Group as an Aircraft Mechanic thanks to the initiative he showed when the Premier 1 jet was being installed at the Academy. He explained: “When the jet arrived at the Academy last year, the JMI team who were working to put it together let us help them. I actually managed to get some work experience off the back of that, and ultimately, they offered me a full-time job that I’ll be starting this summer. It’s everything we’ve trained for, and I’m excited to get started.”

Thomas Whoollett is off to be a Graduate Airworthiness Engineer at BAE Systems and said: “I’ve heard so many great things about BAE Systems, I’ve always wanted to work for them. My great-grandad and grandad both worked for them so I’m excited to follow in their footsteps.”

Principal of Newcastle College, Scott Bullock added: “Newcastle College has a long history of working in partnership with industry to develop the workforce of the future and our Aviation Academy is a fantastic example of this. I’m incredibly proud to see that so many of this year’s aeronautical engineers have already secured employment in the industry and I have no doubt they are ready to step into those roles and go on to make their mark in aviation.”