Career case studies, STEM careers, Employability skills, Careers advice

Careers case study: Shannon's RAF apprenticeship

By Future TalentEd

Shannon Rose undertook a Level 3 ‘Aviation on the Ground’ apprenticeship with the RAF. Here, she explains what this entailed and how her career has developed since.

My grandad was in the Royal Navy, but prior to attending college, I’d never considered the military, as I was focused on going to university.

However, once I started mentioning that I wanted to consider an alternative career path, friends and family suggested the RAF. The travel opportunities and extra benefits that the RAF could offer me (for example, subsidised housing and food and a free gym) spurred my enthusiasm to join.

The RAF offers apprenticeships in many different trades. I wanted to work in an air traffic control tower, but I wasn’t too picky about the particular job within that environment. When I went to the Armed Forces Careers Office, they suggested the ‘Air and Space Operations System (Flight Operations)’ trade. I needed five Cs at GCSE to apply (including English and Maths), but no prior experience.

How school subjects can support your learning

The subjects I studied at school were English Literature and English Language, Maths, Core Science, Additional Science, Dance, Photography, Textiles and Art. School enabled me to prepare for further education, but the nature of my apprenticeship was unique.

I applied online and was invited in for a medical and the Airmen Selection Test, which is an aptitude test, as well as a brief interview. I also went on a familiarisation visit to RAF Halton, which included a fitness test.

Trying out different roles

My apprenticeship was in Aviation on the Ground, a Level 3 qualification. I was based at RAF Boscombe Down in Wiltshire, living on camp. I had a three-year period upon arriving at my first unit to complete this qualification. I was able to choose modules that aligned with my job role; for example, one of mine was ‘markings on the airfield’, which is quite niche to air traffic! Tutors were always on hand to support me and to monitor my progress.

“Joining the RAF is a stepping stone which allows you to understand yourself and your qualities, and to develop yourself”

I’m currently ‘out of trade’ and have gone into social media and marketing, based at RAF Cranwell, living off camp. I’ve just bought my first home. That’s the beauty of the Royal Air Force. You don’t necessarily need to stay within the trade or branch you apply for. You have opportunities to try different things. I’ll still have to go back into trade in a couple of years, but this job gives me new skills and a different aspect of the RAF.

Developing my personal attributes

I don’t think the RAF suits any one type of personality as there’s such a variety of roles, although you do have to be open to new experiences. It’s a great environment in which to meet a lot of different people and to develop your own personal attributes. If you’ve not previously had to work in a team, or take on a leadership role, it puts you in scenarios where you can test yourself in a safe environment.

Within the RAF, we do our main role, but also assist in secondary duties. We need to stay fit and healthy for our fitness tests and there are lots of different committees we can get involved with, plus many opportunities to play sports, which develops our followership and teamwork.

Fostering self awareness to further explore career pathways

If you’re considering joining the RAF, I’d say take the leap, because it opens up so many opportunities. It’s a stepping stone which allows you to understand yourself and your qualities, and to develop yourself. Even if it’s not a career you want to do for the rest of your life, it gives you a platform from which to take different pathways.


This piece was first featured in our Spring 2021 issue of Future TalentEd magazine for careers leaders, parents and students.

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