Linda Duberley
February 17, 2021

Over the past year much attention has been paid to the value of apprenticeships compared to a university education.

The conversation on the value of a degree has gathered momentum as students continued with their university courses racking up loans without the clear prospect of a job which will allow them to repay the cost of their fees. As we adapt to life in the time of Covid, this narrative - already under way - was amplified as many courses moved online.

Either path has strong merits. For a long time, we have considered apprenticeships to be lower down the ladder when it comes to building a strong career. But this is very far from the truth and the reason why the Positive Transformation Group’s Opportunity Academy is at the frontline of changing the conversation.

I look at my own family for the evidence and it is a tale of two brothers. One was awarded a First-Class degree in Pure Maths at Imperial College, the other - Simon - left school at 16 and did an apprenticeship at Martin-Baker Aircraft. Here, he tells us why, his job is so challenging and rewarding.

“At 11:45am, on the 28th September 2018, at USMC Air Station Beaufort, SouthCarolina, a United States Marine Pilot climbed aboard his F-35B Lightning II fighter aircraft to continue his operational duties. Shortly after take-off, the aircraft developed a crippling malfunction, forcing the pilot to eject. In less than a split second, the pilot was safely hanging from his parachute, the$120 million aircraft doomed to the swampland below. The news of this life-saving event spread like wildfire with us. It was the first F-35 ejection since the aircraft entered service some 12 years earlier.

“Martin-BakerAircraft is the world leader in Ejection Seat design and to date has saved the lives of some 7633 aircrew from all over the world. My life at the company started with an apprenticeship when I was just 17 years old. My apprenticeship was a manual skilled one, enabling me with the many skills needed for using all the hand tools and machinery necessary to become part of the business. After one year, I was selected for a position in the Experimental Department. I would stay there for 25 years. Twenty-five years of building seats to be tested out of rocket sleds and fast-moving aircraft. Assisting our development teams in perfecting the design of these seats comes with many challenges and as I matured, my interest in the many mechanisms of an ejection system grew.”

Along the way, Simon progressed into the inspection area of the section and started clearing the first flight seats into service. Not long after working in this new role he was asked if he would consider applying for the position of technical instructor. He applied and was successful.

His role within the customer training centre would be to deliver courses across the many different ejection seat types to the military and aircraft manufacturers, at home and internationally.

You can take-away what you want from this story but he will only ever feel blessed to experience a career pathway with such immense job satisfaction.

Oh, and the firstF-35 ejection? Everyone at this fantastic company of 900 plus people was responsible in saving that young Marine’s life, including Simon as it was seat number 91 and one of the last ejection seats that he inspected before it went out the door.  

It is a great story….my other brother - Paul - has also enjoyed a long and satisfying career in the defence sector. The truth is apprenticeship training is every bit as fulfilling and successful as many degree courses. That’s why PositiveTransformation Group’s Opportunity Academy is focussed on providing a wide range of training programmes which support those wanting a challenge in the world of work.



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