Eight outstanding engineering apprentices are taking part in the ‘Aeronautical Engineering: Mechanical’ category of the WorldSkills UK National Finals from today and over the next three days (16-19 Nov) at the HMS Sultan training base in Gosport, on the South Coast.
The final is the culmination of a year-long competition organised by the charity WorldSkills in partnership with the Royal Aeronautical Society.
Throughout the competition, Leonardo has been the competition’s Technical Lead, assessing the skills and abilities of competitors entering the field of aeronautical engineering, and mechanical engineering in particular.
Over the past year, Leonardo’s five-strong STEM Ambassador team – including graduates Alwin Karmacharya and Charlea Boucher, and degree engineering apprentices Tom Strudwick, Alannah Hambley and Charlotte Lilley from our UK Helicopter business in Yeovil – designed the initial qualifying questionnaire and provided the associated mark scheme. From this initial stage, Leonardo selected competitors for the qualifying stage, where they were asked to demonstrate a range of skills while creating a sheet metal magazine holder. The 18 Level 3 apprentices were assessed on:
- Following correct health and safety practices in the workshop
- Correctly marking out holes/bends from engineering drawings
- Dry assembly (correctly drilling, deburring edges)
- Final assembly (deburring holes, riveting, countersinking)
The Leonardo team formed part of the judging panel which selected the eight finalists for this week’s National Final, where they will be working on Westland Lynx and Gazelle helicopters at HMS Sultan, all in accordance with strict Covid protocols.
“At Leonardo, we do lots of STEM activities with schools. But this is a very niche and unique STEM competition, which requires real expertise, since there aren’t many competitions that test technical apprentices in this way,” explains Product Support Graduate Engineer, Alwin Karmacharya, who is leading Leonardo’s team.
“It provides those competing the opportunity to perform under pressure and demonstrate a range of aircraft maintenance tasks. Developing these skills requires lots of hard work and practice.”
Charlea Boucher, who is a Business Products and Programmes Graduate, says that the Covid pandemic has been a major challenge in organising this year’s competition.
“From the end of 2020, we were working remotely, while trying to collaborate and develop the competition brief in an unknown scenario. This involved us inventing the process from scratch, utilising technology to give the competitors the same ‘in person experience’ they would usually get.”
Ahead of the National Finals, Charlea is encouraged by the diverse list of finalists competing. “Engineering, and specifically aircraft maintenance, is a very male-dominated world, so one of the best things about this competition is seeing female apprentices competing at the highest levels. For me, this is quite powerful, giving recognition that women can do this too,” she adds.
Finalists who achieve the benchmark score will be invited to opt into Squad UK for the WorldSkills International Final taking place in Lyon in 2024.