Status of UK establishment dedicated to aerospace engineering education upgraded as it prepares to start expansion work with new dedicated building

Macclesfield College, in the north west of England, recently received confirmation that its European Centre for Aerospace Training (ECAT) has been named a fully fledged Centre for Vocational Excellence (CoVE) in the field of aerospace engineering.

There are around 300 CoVEs in the UK, all of which provide vocational training in partnership with local schools and businesses, approved by the Learning and Skills Council. ECAT is the only full CoVE specifically dedicated to aerospace engineering training, although a number of others have interim status and are awaiting final approval.

"Being a CoVE essentially means you are a preferred provider. It is hard work to get and a difficult task to maintain it. College systems need to be top-level," says ECAT head of engineering Mike Hutchings.

As well as around 60 full-time and 30 part-time UK 16-19 year-olds studying for HNDs, NVQs and foundation degrees in aerospace engineering, ECAT also has contracts to provide the UAE and Kuwaiti militaries with aerospace technology training for some of their recruits, with around 50 students from the two countries enrolled in various programmes at any one time.

It also offers bespoke training courses for MyTravel and BAE Systems, among other industry partners, and delivers teaching for the vocational GCSE in engineering for pupils at five local schools. Attending the centre for some GCSE classes can greatly influence the students to pursuing a career in aerospace, Hutchings believes.

Students at ECAT are able to practise their skills on a fully operational twin-engined BAE Jetstream 31 turboprop, which was purchased for the centre for £250,000 ($456,000), funded by the North West Development Agency.

"It was a big investment for a further education establishment. Having an aircraft with full systems functionality is quite exceptional. If you put fuel in it, it would fly," Hutchings says.

Construction work will begin in nine months on creating a new facility to house the Jetstream and ECAT's classrooms and workshops in one dedicated building, ready for the September 2006 intake.

"It will be a purpose-built facility that will have probably the best training facilities you will see anywhere in the UK," says Hutchings.

Hutchings says those considering aerospace engineering careers and university courses when they leave school should be aware that national diplomas in the subject, which are the equivalent of three A-levels, can be more attractive to universities and employers than a set of A-levels.

"An aerospace national diploma is a better entry for young people looking to go to university and study aerospace subjects than doing A-levels is," he says.


Source: Flight International