We caught up with Squadron Leader Jim Tait, RAF Senior Careers Engagement Officer – SCEO (North East) to find out more about the RAF’s work with UTC Leeds
The RAF is one of the biggest employers of engineers in the UK and finding high quality recruits with the potential to fill these roles is a constant challenge. The RAF is now working with University Technical Colleges around the country because they focus on developing young people with the professional, technical and personal skills to take up careers in engineering. We caught up with Squadron Leader Jim Tait, RAF Senior Careers Engagement Officer – SCEO (North East) to find out more about the RAF’s work with UTC Leeds.
What kinds of engineering roles are available in the RAF?
There are 11 different technical and engineering roles in the RAF. Most people think of Aircraft Technician or Engineering Officer but there are also roles like Cyberspace Communication Specialist or Survival Equipment Specialist, not to mention the host of other roles in the RAF that are not just about engineering – areas like intelligence and logistics.
How do young people secure one of these roles in the RAF?
There are two main entry routes for young people – through apprenticeships or applying to be an officer after taking a degree. The RAF also sponsors students on degrees but it’s very competitive. Most people come in as apprentices and progress through the ranks. The RAF offers lots of support for continuing education and development.
What are the challenges that you face with recruitment?
One of the biggest challenges is the increasing need for computing skills. The RAF has just taken delivery of the first four new F-35 fighter jets which are state-of-the-art planes, so-called “fifth-generation” aircraft, with stealth and intelligence gathering capabilities. This aircraft is all about technology and it requires new skillsets to maintain and operate it. We particularly need computing skills combined with engineering skills.
Why did the RAF get involved with UTCs?
University Technical Colleges are focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects combining technical and academic qualifications. We need young people with STEM skills so it was an obvious fit. We have different levels of partnership with various schools and colleges, of which ‘platinum’ is the most in-depth. All UTCs are platinum partners.
What have you done with UTC Leeds so far?
We have supported some of the UTC Leeds events and hosted a visit for Year 10 and Year 12 students to RAF Leeming. The students were able to experience a range of different disciplines in different areas – mechanical, electrical, armoury and cyber-security – and find out about different career routes. It was a really in-depth visit designed to give them a good insight into potential jobs and training opportunities in the RAF.
What are plans for the future?
We’re coming into the UTC to run a life skills session in July, designed to help build confidence and team working skills. There will be another visit to RAF Leeming in the autumn and we’re also looking at offering a project challenge that fits with the curriculum. We think there’s lots of opportunity for the RAF to work with UTC Leeds.