Matt Finnie proudly wears the coveted blue overalls which mark him out as a qualified aircraft mechanic, having graduated from the four-year KLM UK Engineering apprentice scheme in August 2012. Newsmakers PR director Amanda Sandland-Taylor has been finding out how Matt got started on his high-flying career.

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What does the job involve?

If it’s part of an aircraft, it will need an engineer’s expertise. One day you may be working on an engine, the next airframe structures or hydraulic and avionics systems. It certainly guarantees an interesting variety. Everything you do is vital to the integrity of the aircraft, protecting it and maintaining its airworthiness. An aircraft mechanic has hands-on responsibility for component replacement, defect repairs, diagnostics and inspections. During my apprenticeship I learned to interpret the technical data and drawings which strictly govern every repair and maintenance task. Sometimes aircraft come in requiring very short notice work. You have to be ready for all scenarios at any time, 24 hours a day, 364 days a year.

Why is it a good profession to get into?

Every day is different which keeps the job fresh and interesting. There’s always lots to learn and new challenges to meet and overcome. Within KLM UK Engineering there are great opportunities to continue learning and gain new skills and qualifications. The study involved is very intense and an apprentice must be totally committed to the learning process – but the rewards make it so worthwhile. I was part of a small group of apprentices that worked closely together, giving each other support and encouragement every step of the way. There is huge scope for development and promotion. Many former apprentices still work within the company and have gone on to become part of the KLM UK Engineering management team. Throughout the industry senior positions are occupied by former apprentices.

What are the positive/negatives of this profession?

It’s great to be part of a dynamic team where you all work together in the pursuit of excellence. I received great support from management and workmates throughout my training. I am now able to give junior colleagues the same kind of help I was given. On top of the fantastic job satisfaction, I know that I have a great career which offers good financial benefits. You get to travel too – during my apprenticeship I worked at Glasgow and Edinburgh airports. Negatives? I cannot think of anything...unless you regard occasional outside work in winter a bad thing!

Is there much local demand for people in this area?

Yes, definitely...more than many people might think. KLM UK Engineering is a busy maintenance and repair organisation that works 364 days a year. Of the 375 staff employed in Norwich, 250 are engineers tasked with keeping fleets of aircraft flying across Europe and beyond. Often teams of engineers are sent off-site to carry out essential repairs. Typically that may be anywhere in the UK or Amsterdam; but some of our engineers have had to go as far as Madagascar, Kazakhstan and Montenegro. At a time when there is a worldwide shortage of skilled aircraft engineers, I think it is fantastic that the business I work in can keep contracts rolling in because it has such a steady supply of talented, qualified staff from its own extensive apprentice scheme.

What would employers look for in someone applying for a vacancy?

To be taken on as an aircraft mechanic, a candidate must have completed a recognised apprenticeship or completed armed forces aircraft training. KLM UK Engineering’s apprenticeship scheme requires candidates to have attained GCSE Grade C or above in Maths, English and Science before participating in a selection process. Candidates need to demonstrate a flair for engineering, possess inquisitive minds and good basic hand skills. They will need a passion for continuous learning and be able to demonstrate problem solving abilities. Getting onto the apprenticeship scheme is only the start – four years of hard work and dedicated study is essential if individuals are to progress to a permanent position within the company.

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