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Ella Willis

Level 3 Diploma in Aviation Operations

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Ella Willis

I was a bit surprised at first when I found out it was based at the Aviation Academy, but I think that's part of what made the course stand out - nowhere else I was considering offered in-depth learning at an actual airport venue!

The amount of support available since I started at Newcastle College has honestly been fantastic. Whenever I was stuck on a problem, or if I ever needed extra support for any reason, my tutors were always available to help me.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background etc?

My name’s Ella, I study at Newcastle College Aviation Academy, studying a L3 Diploma in Aviation Operations. At school I studied Geography and Travel and Tourism. I’ve always loved travelling so I had an attraction for the aviation industry. After I finished school, I found this course online via Newcastle College website, so when I looked into it, I loved it and decided to apply here. My course is based at the Aviation Academy and it runs for two years, covering ten units in the first year and eight units in the second year, covering topics like security, passenger terminal management, team leadership, on-board operations, aircraft dispatch and the environmental issues of the aviation industry. There were some units I definitely found more interesting than others, but I’ve learnt a lot from all of them! I’ve just finished my two-year course now, and now I want to get a job at Newcastle Airport.

There’s a bit of a family tradition among my relatives for working in the aviation and travel industry! My mam used to be a cabin crew air hostess, and so did my auntie and my mam’s best friend, so I had a good background knowledge of working in the aviation industry before coming to study.


How did you hear about Newcastle College? Did you attend an Open Day prior to starting at the College? If so, did you find it useful?

I had a look online, selected the course I wanted to do, filled in my details (such as my qualifications at school) and secured my placement – it was all pretty straightforward! I was a bit surprised at first when I found out it was based at the Aviation Academy, but I think that’s part of what made the course stand out – nowhere else I was considering offered in-depth learning at an actual airport venue!

I also attended an Open Event at Newcastle College to complete my enrolment. It was quite a good experience! There was a desk for every subject area or course, and I was shown where to go by some really helpful staff when I arrived. The Travel, Tourism and Aviation Operations staff I spoke to were all friendly and really supportive when I applied too.


What made you decide to come to the college and enrol on the course you selected?

I enjoy travelling, when I was a little girl I absolutely loved the experience of taking-off so it felt like it was written in the stars for me! Plus, like I said, I’ve got a family background in the aviation and travel industry, so I felt quite comfortable going for a job in this sector.


How would you describe the advice and support you received from college and your tutors? Have you had any support for our Central Support Team – Pastoral support?

Whenever I was stuck on a problem, or if I ever needed extra support for any reasons, my tutors were always available to help me. I haven’t needed any direct support from the Student Services or CSS team, but I know it’s there if students need it. My tutors always made sure we were always kept up-to-date in terms of what times we came onto campus, if we were ever late or missing, and if that happened they always reached out to us really quickly to ask if we were ok. The amount of support available since I started at Newcastle College has honestly been overwhelming in the best way.


Do you have any tutors who have industry experience? If so, how has this helped you?

Yes, one of my tutors from last year was Jet2 cabin crew for years; she’s gone back to Jet2 now actually! She was really helpful because she’d done the job first-hand in real life, and her stories and experiences were really insightful. She taught me the Onboard Operations unit, and she used to share a lot of her personal experiences that helped enrich my assignments. She used to help us a lot as well in terms of our classwork too – one of our major assignments was to write up this enormous manual (which took forever!) which discussed everything that happens on board a flight, all the different products and services, as well as what’s offered for children of all ages on the plane. It was a massive help to find out the best methods and techniques from people who’ve actually done the job, as well as hearing stories of on-the-job experiences that maybe aren’t covered in the manual and how to deal with them.


Did you look into financial support available from the college? If so what were they and how did they help?

No, I didn’t.


Have you overcome any challenges while on your course? If so how has the college helped you?

I wouldn’t say ‘challenges’, but there have been a few times with a couple of struggles. Last year, for example, I had five different teachers each leading different units, and at a couple of points it felt like the work was getting on top of me a bit. Thankfully, this year I’ve only had two tutors, which has really helped me to manage my workload and my mental health better. My tutors did ask a few times last year how I was doing, and whether I was comfortable with the level of work, so I was honest with them about any stress I felt, but I just appreciated them taking the time to check in with me as a person, rather than as a learner. They always asked if there was anything more they could do to help me, and while I was usually self-sufficient, if there were ever a point I felt particularly confused, they would go above and beyond to help me.


What do you/did you enjoy most about your course?

I’ve enjoyed learning about the aviation industry, gaining a better understanding of how it works. That level of knowledge has helped to open doors for the different jobs I could go into or opportunities available, such as the Airport Ambassador programme I worked on this year, which really helped to develop my confidence. After completing my course, my plan was to find a job in Newcastle Airport, being an Airport Ambassador helped me to feel more confident speaking to people from all backgrounds, young or old, and seeing how different departments interact with each other, since in an airline setting, communication is key! I’ve also really enjoyed just meeting new people (including some who are now my best friends!) who I obviously wouldn’t have met without studying at Newcastle College. Although there are a lot more courses offered at the main campus, the smaller community of the Aviation Academy makes it feel like a little family, so for me it’s such a close-knit and friendly community where everyone knows everyone and we all get on really well!


Have you done any work experience or a work placement as part of your course?

Last year, I did an interview with students in the year above me as part of the Airport Ambassador programme. They asked what I would like to bring to Newcastle Airport and if there’s anything I would like to change. After I was accepted and got my DBS check and references, I was given an airport pass and so started my work placement in the airport. I had to do 60 hours altogether, and I had to make a record of how many hours I worked on placement, including a log of any tasks or activities I performed on each shift. It did get a bit repetitive after a while since I was largely doing the same tasks, so I kept thinking of different tasks I did each time to make myself stand out. Once that was completed (because the work placement is a module in itself), I filled out an evaluation for the Airport Ambassador programme. Considering how much the programme has helped me achieve in terms getting as much experience as possible in an airport setting, I’ve got to say I couldn’t be more pleased with how my time at Newcastle College has gone.


What would you like to do when you finish your course? Would you consider studying a degree at Newcastle College University Centre?

I’m hoping to find a job in Newcastle Airport. I’ve applied for a position in Swissport, but I want to gain as much experience as possible at the airport (ideally I’d like to work there for a couple of years) before hopefully progressing onto cabin crew for Jet2. Loads of airlines are great, but I personally love the idea of flying with Jet2, the cabin crew are always really friendly and they offer some fantastic deals to workers!


What would you say to anyone thinking of studying a course with Newcastle College?

I’m honestly not sure how to answer that – there are so many potential options! Honestly, my advice would be that if you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask your tutors. The tutors are always there to help you, and often to challenge you as well because they’re always looking to push you to make sure you get the best qualification possible by the end of the year, and that you leave Newcastle College with as many useful skills as possible for when you go into the industry. I’d also recommend staying on top of your assignments so you’re never caught out with your work, and make sure you’ve covered what’s needed without going over the top and giving too much information, to the point where you need to edit down or be referred to examiners.


Top tips

Arrive in plenty of time – tutors always need to see you’re adhering to college rules and putting your best foot forward.

Submit your work in good time – don’t rush it at the last minute, but make sure you take time to do any assignments properly, to a high quality, and that you submit them in good time.

Make friends with your classmates – get to know them, ask them about yourself, it’ll make your early days much more comfortable!

Be open to new opportunities – speak to everyone you can, whether they’re students, staff or co-workers at Newcastle Airport, as you can learn something from everyone!