RAF Waddington wins Best Advanced Apprentice 2012

RAF Waddington based SAC(T) Paul Hardie has scooped the prestigious RAF Apprentice of the Year Award for 2012 in the ‘Best Advanced Apprentice’ category.

The RAF Best Advanced Apprentice of the Year Award recognises the best of the best and Paul was selected for the top award from a field of some 2,500 personnel engaged on the apprentice programme. His selection therefore, is a fantastic achievement and represents a resounding endorsement of his commitment and aptitude that has enabled him to triumph in the face of incredibly stiff competition. Paul is the latest winner of the top honour from a scheme that has produced such distinguished luminaries as Sir Frank Whittle, the father of the jet engine and Olympian Donald Finley. Moreover, the honour of winning Apprentice of The Year has taken on even greater significance this year, as the RAF Apprenticeship Scheme celebrates its 90th Anniversary.

For Paul, the award is the culmination of a 5 year journey of personal and professional development and should therefore be termed an endurance race rather than a sprint. Despite the considerable personal challenges of balancing his continued professional development against the demands of his primary duties. He has single-mindedly focused on learning and developing the skills necessary to be part of enabling today’s Royal Air Force to create tomorrow’s Future Force, through world class training and development opportunities. Paul is a worthy recipient, upholding the finest traditions of service and excellence among the apprentice cadre; the history of which can be traced back to Lord Trenchard and the birth of the RAF.

Indeed, it was the vision of Lord Trenchard to have an apprenticeship scheme for young people whose main focus was to provide skilled engineers in order to keep pace with the rapid technological advances of the time. Today, almost all personnel have the opportunity to undertake an RAF apprenticeship, the benefits of which still exactly match the words issued by the Air Ministry at the start of WW 11 to encourage young people to enlist in the Royal Air Force as an apprentice:

‘Medical attention, good and plentiful food, clothing, general welfare, liberal leave, and adequate pocket money are all given to the boy whose parents have decided that they shall also be given highly skilled and continuous instruction until they become equally skilled in one of the many trades which are necessary to the maintenance of the Royal Air force’

Clearly these words would have encouraged many young men and women of that time to enlist and perhaps some of, or all of these benefits, encouraged Paul to enlist on the 05 July 2006 as an Aircraft Maintenance Mechanic. Following basic training at RAF Halton, which for many years was the home of the No1 School of Technical Training and synonymous with RAF Apprentice training, Paul moved onto RAF Cosford, the new home of the No1 School of Technical Training to commence his AMM training. After graduating from Cosford on the 21 May 2007, Paul was posted to RAF Coningsby to work on the Typhoon aircraft on No 11 Sqn. A little under 2 years later on the 03 March 2009, Paul returned to RAF Cosford to commence Phase 2 technician training and successfully graduated as a technician on the 01 March 2010.

Following further training, Paul was posted to No 8 Sqn here at RAF Waddington, where he is employed on the Sentry aircraft Mission System Trade Desk. From the start of his tour he has proven to be an excellent technician and superb all-rounder, quick to learn, with a real thirst for knowledge and genuine willingness to tackle the toughest challenges. It was these qualities that ensured Paul was a member of the first engineering team to deploy in support of Op UNIFIED PROTECTOR last year. It is during that time that Paul reinforced his determination to succeed. It would have been all too easy and understandable that his progress toward gaining a Modern Apprenticeship would be interrupted during his time away from MOB. For Paul though, this was simply another opportunity to be exploited and a chance to ensure he completed his Modern Apprenticeship ahead of schedule.

Paul admits that completing the apprenticeship has been challenging, but very rewarding and he is enormously proud to have his achievements formally recognised with the Best Advanced Apprentice award. However, not content to rest on his laurels, he has already embarked on studies toward gaining a City and Guilds Level 3 qualification in Management. In addition, Paul is looking forward to commencing the 2nd of his aircraft type specialist Q courses and having the opportunity to apply the theoretical knowledge gained in a practical environment.

Next for Paul, is an appointment at the House of Lords on the 14 March 12 to take part in an event to celebrate the excellence of Aeronautical Training in the Military, of which the RAF Apprenticeship Scheme is a fundamental component. Following that, he is keen to continue exploiting every opportunity to develop his personal and professional qualifications for the future.

By Squadron Leader Deith

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