North Warwickshire And Hinckley College Airport

As the countdown to the school holidays starts, the aviation industry is preparing for its busiest period with around 770,000 flights expected to be handled by the UK’s airline network in July and August alone. The busiest single day usually falls just after schools start their summer break, which last year saw 8,800 flights depart and arrive from UK airports.

Airports are exciting places to be, and with the holiday season about to go into full swing, we talked to our travel and tourism team about exciting opportunities to join careers in the industry.

North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College has Swissport Academy status and this means that any student successfully achieving their Level 2 Aviation Environment qualification is guaranteed an interview with Swissport at Birmingham Airport.

Mandi Coton, lecturer in travel and tourism, said “Students on the aviation course visit Birmingham Airport three times during the year, and get a chance to shadow flight check-in, the boarding and arrivals process, baggage handling. They also go behind the scenes of airport security.

“In the past, we have been privileged to get the chance to board a luxurious Emirates A380 and have even visited the air traffic control tower which was an amazing experience.

“Simply being in an airport environment can really inspire students and jobs are in high demand so we encourage them to do as well as they can on our aviation programme because it really can open doors for them.

“As part of the course, students are tasked with taking part in a simulated exercise within the boarding and arrivals area at the airport. Last year, a flight delay resulted in students having to practise in front of 200 passengers who were waiting in the bussing lounge. Our students were unphased by the audience and the feedback from Swissport was very positive.

“Successful students who have achieved well on their course and demonstrated good attendance and punctuality in college are first in the queue for a six-month contract to work for Swissport as a customer service agent.

“Many of our students do so well in these roles, they are offered permanent employment, working at Birmingham Airport in baggage handling and dispatch, or moving on to work directly with airlines as cabin crew. The aviation environment qualification provides an excellent grounding in air travel that can lead to a number of different careers.

The Level 2 Aviation Environment programme includes security, communications, airport check-in services, boarding and arrival services, airport baggage processing, looking after passengers with special requirements, aircraft marshalling, flight operations support, the aircraft dispatch process, and airport health and safety.

Make a move into the military

Aviation is not all about holidays and business trips. The College also has links with the RAF and Mandi takes students to its largest UK base, RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire as part of their course. Mandi told us, “We take a full tour of the base by car, including the airside, and even cross the runway which is pretty hair-raising! The students get to look behind the scenes at all the aspects of running a military airbase from catering and hospitality to meeting the pilots themselves. Many people aren’t aware, but the RAF has cabin crew roles too, working on aircraft like the Hercules.

“Some of our students are inspired to join the RAF where they are required to take part in basic training and then complete a year within a hospitality role working on events such as silver service dinners in the officer’s mess.

“So, this aviation qualification could mark the start of an exciting military career with boundless opportunities to progress and diversify.”

The College offers several opportunities to progress within the travel and tourism curriculum which includes a higher education option through its HND Travel and Tourism Management, as a potential alternative to going to university.

Stay home for higher education

Mandi said, “Colleges present a much more practical alternative to universities and enable people to keep costs down by studying closer to home.

“The average distance between the home postcode and the learning location for college undergraduates is 17 miles, compared with 52 miles for those attending a university.

“Our course fees are much lower than those of universities with the cost of a full-time HND just £5,950 per year.”