AN AVIATION engineering training centre is to open at Newcastle Airport in a joint venture between further and higher education. The pound;1.7 million Newcastle Aviation Academy is expected to open in June, with classroom and workshop facilities and an aircraft for practical training.
A choice of a two or three-year programme takes students as far as the basic training certificate. This is usually followed by a two-year apprenticeship as a trainee maintenance engineer. The collaboration with Kingston University means the students' work also counts towards a full degree in aeronautical engineering.
Some 20 entrants are expected in the first year, with a possible expansion to 50 a year in future. The consortium includes City of Bristol college, whose head of aeronautical engineering, Chris Graham, will oversee part of the operation.
Mr Graham said: "In three to five years, there will be a serious shortage of aircraft maintenance engineers. When people have qualified to the European-recognised standard they will be able to find jobs as trainee engineers and serve their apprenticeships until they become licensed engineers themselves."
City of Bristol college has built an international reputation for training maintenance engineers in the past 25 years. Newcastle Airport is expecting significant growth in air traffic and hopes the venture will plug a potential skills gap and meet the needs of the airlines.
Other partners are Newcastle College, Tyne and Wear Learning and Skills Council and the TyneWear Partnership, which supports economic development in the area.
Professor Andrew Self, of Kingston University, said: " Those seeking a career in airline aviation can progress through the Newcastle College national certificate or other suitable entry qualifications, such as A-levels or modern apprenticeships, to the honours degree, professional engineer status and full membership of the Royal Aeronautical Society."
The project is seen as a model of collaboration between universities and FE colleges.
Chris Roberts, executive director of the Tyne and Wear LSC, said: "The academy will improve the quality and range of FE provision. This facility is a great addition to the North-east's economy and its link to the university sector places it in the elite for the area."
City of Bristol college was recently awarded a contract to help train apprentices working on the new Airbus super-jumbo and has been recognised as a Centre of Vocational Excellence in the field of aeronautical engineering.