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Stansted Airport College eyes expansion as 400 youngsters apply for 250 places

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Stansted Airport College. Official opening. INflite Jet Aircraft - donated to the college by Inflite. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (9602191)
Stansted Airport College. Official opening. INflite Jet Aircraft - donated to the college by Inflite. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (9602191)

Stansted Airport College has already attracted more than 400 applications for up to 250 vacancies this year.

The £11m facility – a partnership between Harlow College and airport owner Manchester Airports Group (MAG) – was launched last September. When fully subscribed, it will offer vocational courses and apprenticeships to 500 young people from Uttlesford, East Herts and beyond.

It is the first purpose-built, on-site college at a major UK airport and the only further education centre in Uttlesford. It is also the nearest college to Bishop's Stortford, which is the largest town in the country without its own FE facility.

The college is already working with Stortford's Herts and Essex High School to encourage girls to study STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects.

Head Wendy Martin and four students outlined successes already clocked up by the college to members of STACC, the Stansted Airport Consultative Committee, which acts as a watchdog.

She told the panel of councillors and community representatives: "We aim to deliver courses across a broad range of subject areas."

The focus is on airport occupations, but Ms Martin was clear that students were being coached for high-flying careers in the long term, not just any job.

The college specialises in aviation operations and cabin crew, engineering and aircraft maintenance, hospitality and events management with input from major employers such as Titan Airways, Novotel, TUI and Ryanair.

She said: "We're not just training people for the here and now, but for the future."

The feedback from employers so far has been extremely encouraging, she said, with many valuing the practical "skills on the line and in the hangar" that students are learning compared to the theory-heavy approach at universities.

Ms Martin paid tribute to the "significant" support the college received from MAG and other airport businesses, and said that while the courses so far had a 94% retention rate, some youngsters had left to take up full-time employment or other apprenticeships as a result of the work they had already completed at the college.

When questioned about expansion plans, she said: "We're having early discussions now about how we can support the local economy."

Built on a one-acre site provided by MAG, it was financed by two separate £3.5m grants from Essex County Council and the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) Local Growth Fund, £600,000 from Harlow College and £300,000 from Uttlesford District Council.

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