RAF Education Initiative Takes off at Lincoln UTC

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As the last surviving dambuster, George ‘Johnny’ Johnson, received his honorary doctorate from the University in Lincoln at Lincoln Cathedral, down the hill at Lincoln UTC, a potential group of pilots, engineers and ground staff, were taking part in the Royal Air Force’s latest educational initiative.

Lincoln University Technical College (UTC) was chosen as the venue for the launch of Vigilant Fourteen Forty, a new interactive, educational exercise.

Designed to highlight the service’s need for engineers, Vigilant 1440 is inspired by the RAF’s Quick Reaction Alert Typhoon squadrons, which are maintained around the clock ready to intercept any unidentified airborne threat entering UK airspace.

The challenge faced by 60 Year 10 Lincoln UTC students as part of Vigilant 1440 was to control four Typhoon jets via their virtual hangers installed on tablets. Working in small teams, students had individual roles to perform, all requiring mathematics, physics and engineering knowledge as well as communication and teamwork skills.

The challenge ended with the students undertaking an overseas humanitarian mission.

Following the successful completion of Vigilant 1440 launch at Lincoln UTC, the RAF intend to roll out the initiative to other UTC’s in the UK.

"We have exceptionally close links to the Royal Air Force at Lincoln UTC and our specialist science, technology, engineering and mathematics education provision equips young people with the knowledge the RAF is looking for and needs in its new recruits,” says John Morrison, Principal at Lincoln UTC. “The RAF is one of our Gold partners and regularly come into school to deliver presentations and educational programmes. In the past our students have enjoyed work experience with the RAF and just last month, we were delighted to see one pupil achieve the GCSE results he needed to secure an apprenticeship with the service. We feel very privileged that the RAF chose to launch this national initiative at Lincoln UTC."

The RAF is constantly recruiting and has identified that engineers and cyberspace communications specialists are particularly challenging roles to fill. “Students at University Technical Colleges are potentially very well suited to the roles of engineers and cyberspace communications specialists. That’s why we have developed Vigilant 1440,” says Squadron Leader Pieter Severein, who led the delivery of Vigilant 1440. “The challenges faced during the exercise ask the students to use their science, technology, engineering and mathematics knowledge to overcome problems and challenges similar to those that would be encountered by the Quick Reaction Alert Typhoon squadron’s engineers, which are based in Lincolnshire at RAF Coningsby and Lossiemouth in Scotland.

"The programme has tested the students. They’ve had to work under pressure, taking on individual roles and working as part of a team. We’ve been delighted with the students’ response to the challenge and hopefully we will see some of these Lincoln UTC students applying to join the RAF in the future."

Sophie Hudson, age 14 from Lincoln UTC who undertook the role of Chief Engineering Technician in team Shellfish said the exercise brought a career in the RAF to life: "I really enjoyed taking part in Vigilant 1440. I have a real interest in the forces as my dad is in the RAF. It was unlike anything I’ve done before at school and something I’d probably only be able to do at Lincoln UTC. I will certainly think about the RAF as a career in the future now as it has given me a better understanding of the possible careers available."

Opened in 2014 and based in an £8m learning facility, Lincoln UTC is a specialist college educating 14 to 18 year olds in core subjects including Mathematics and English alongside specialist studies in Engineering and Science. Supported by the University of Lincoln, Siemens and a range of Lincolnshire businesses, up to 160 students are admitted into Year 10 and Year 12 each academic year.

This summer, 97% of A Level students secured a university place and 84% of candidates passed nine or more GCSEs, with 70% achieving at least five A* to C grades, including Maths and English.