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Princess Royal visits Stansted Airport College

Education: Secondary / Sat 26th Mar 2022 am31 07:16am

PRINCESS Anne gave a royal seal of approval to Stansted Airport College on Tuesday.

Her Royal Highness congratulated students and staff when she visited the four-year-old campus and urged other educators across the country to learn from their trailblazing example.

The Princess Royal toured the £11m college – the first purpose-built on-site college at a major UK airport and the only further education facility in Uttlesford – in her role as patron of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT).

She had been scheduled to visit last year, but the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted plans instigated by CILT Stansted group chairman Graham McAndrew, who is also an East Herts district and Herts county councillor for Bishop’s Stortford and a member of the Stansted Airport Consultative Committee.

Princess Anne told guests including Stansted Airport’s managing director Steve Griffiths, Essex County Council chairman and college governor Eddie Johnson, Uttlesford District Council leader Petrina Lees, Hertfordshire County Council leader Richard Roberts and aviation industry leaders: “I’m so glad we continued with this visit.”

She said she had been impressed by the close links forged between the college and airport employers and how the students’ newly-learned skills were a springboard to careers in aircraft and airport engineering, business studies, logistics and supply chain management, asset management, hospitality and customer service.

The princess said: “It’s getting to the stage where you will not have any trouble proving the value of this set-up, not least because pretty much all of your students are getting jobs.”

The college can train up to 500 young people a year in technical skills, traineeships and apprenticeships, and the 71-year-old royal met students who have already secured their dream jobs.

Princess Anne arrived at the college by helicopter just after 6.30pm on Tuesday (Mar 22) accompanied by her lady in waiting and escorted by the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Essex, Vincent Thompson.

She then toured the college with CILT chairman Alan Jones, Stansted Airport College principal and Harlow College chief executive Karen Spencer, her deputy Will Allanson and head of centre Victoria Clayden-Smith.

The royal laughed and joked with the youngsters as she questioned them about their courses, the jobs they had already secured and their long-term aspirations. She took a particular interest in how far they had to travel to study at Stansted.

They included Rares Turco, who is originally from Romania and left his Southend home at 4.30am to get to classes on time. His dedication has earned him an apprenticeship with Ryanair.

Nathan Morris, from east London, leaves home at 6.30am and takes two trains and two buses so he can study engineering. He told Princess Anne: “I’ve just always loved aircraft.”

The princess quizzed staff about their careers, taking a particular interest in their industry roles before they decided to teach.

In the skills kitchen, she met hospitality and events tutor Anthony Sophocles and students who had created a selection of sweet and savoury canapés and delicate patisserie for guests.

He told her: “We have really good links with the airport and students secure full-time jobs when they leave, the majority at the airport.”

His pupils told the princess they would soon be moving on to work at on-site hotels such as the Hampton by Hilton or the airport’s Escape Lounge.

Senior tutor Stuart Smith told their royal guest he was a former Harlow College student who went on to work at the Savoy and Claridges before deciding to pass on his skills to the next generation of caterers.

When the tour party moved upstairs to the first-floor crew room, Princess Anne got comfortable in a real aircraft seat, ready for a pre-flight safety briefing delivered by aviation operations student Pharrel Mukasa and three classmates. The quartet has already secured jobs with Jet2, British Airways and Manchester Airports Group.

In one of the concluding speeches, Stansted Airport MD Steve Griffiths told guests he was confident that both the airport and the college would go from strength to strength as demand for air travel returns to pre-Covid levels. His team is gearing up to handle 2.5 million passengers in their busiest month this summer.

“With our recovery from the pandemic fully on track this year, it’s the perfect time to consider a career in aviation,” he said. “This is the only college I know of where you can look out of the window and see your career across the runway.”

Those benefits were echoed by CILT chair Alan Jones, and Karen Spencer said the college was already looking to expand and her students had a “clear line of sight to a great career”.

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