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UK Skills competition will be incorporated into World Skills competition in 2009

Britain’s first Royal Air Force (RAF) Mechanic of the Year competition, in conjunction with UK Skills, was recently held at the Defence College of Aeronautical Engineering (DCAE) Cosford, in a bid to test the basic mechanical and avionic engineering skills of budding aeronautical engineers.

Competitors nationwide who had completed their training between June 2006 and October 2007 were considered the best Aircraft Maintenance Mechanics (AMM) in this category by their home RAF stations.

Lord Trefgarne, the chairman of Skill Engineering Steering Committee was the first one to approach DCAE Cosford with the idea of a competition in order to assess its feasibility for Service personnel. Although an AMM level competition in collaboration with UK Skills, who champion work-based learning through competitions and awards in Britain, the bigwigs believed the initiative to be a stepping stone towards participating in a national technician-level competition in 2008.

Flight Lieutenant Val Lomas, leader of DCAE Cosford’s UK Skills Project Team who organised the event, pointed out that the attitudes and confidence of all the competitors grew considerably during these three days of the contest.

Each competitor was assigned a mentor from their home station to help them prepare for the competition- a recognised support system prevalent within the RAF.

On day one, before an audience of Cosford personnel and external representatives, competitors had to showcase their basic hand and fault finding skills, using electrical training boards and mechanical hand skills trainers within three hours allocated to them ““ a test of their mechanical component replacement and electrical circuit knowledge.

On the second day, competitors had to prepare an aircraft before its taxi within 55 minutes. The radio call indicating the pilot’s imminent arrival warned them as time ran out. After the taxi run, the exercise was repeated with competitors now assuming a different role within their operations team to further test their abilities.

The winner of the first RAF Mechanic of the Year Competition, Senior Aircraftman Dave Hurley, RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire said, “It was a great experience, I was amazed to be part of it, shocked and nervous when I found out I had won; especially after learning that all the competitors were so close in scores.”

Guest speaker from Canadian Skills, Mr Richard Johnstone expressed his desire to introduce aeronautical engineering as a new discipline in the World Skills 2009 competition to be held in Canada. Also, plans by UK Skills to introduce it in the World Skills 2011 Competition in London are underway.

Rinku Chatterjee

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