Engineering apprenticeships off to flying start

helicopter-chaseSeven young men have got their careers off to a flying start with Bristow Helicopters. The youths, all aged between 17 and 21, landed modern apprenticeships with the global leader of helicopter services. They beat off competition from almost 120 others to secure the prestigious training in Aberdeen. The young men, from as far afield as Great Yarmouth, are currently studying at Air Service Training, Perth, embarking on the second stage of their apprenticeship and working towards their Category A3 Licence. This is the first step in gaining a full aircraft maintenance engineer's qualification. The highly sought-after apprenticeships are a vital element in the drive to plug the engineering skills gap required for the aircraft industry. Aberdeen supports the busiest heliport in Europe, serving the North Sea energy sector and carrying out around 40,000 flights a year. Bristow Helicopters, along with the rest of the industry in Europe, recognises the forthcoming skills shortage due to their demographic profile. Qualification routes for aircraft maintenance staff became much harder to achieve, within a reasonable time period, following the introduction during 2003 of the European Aviation Safety Agency's Part-66 aircraft maintenance licensing structure. A Part-66 licence entitles the technician to certify that aircraft maintenance has been carried out safely, correctly and meets European legal requirements. With their previous experience of running apprenticeships and engineering training courses, Bristow Helicopters decided to re-introduce apprentice training that ensured initial qualification to SVQ3 and their Category A3 licence level within two years. Phil Mitchell, Bristow Helicopters Director of Centralised Operations, says Bristow recognises that apprenticeship programmes can make its organisation more effective, productive and competitive by addressing skill gaps directly.

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