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The Corporation

Posted: 26/02/16

Military masterclass

“You can achieve anything in life provided you have the spirit, desire and determination to work hard” – these were the inspirational words from one of the Royal Air Force’s most distinguished officers to students at West Nottinghamshire College.

  • Public service students pictured with Air Marshal Sir Baz North.
  • Sir Baz presents the RAF platinum award to Julian Smith.

Air Marshal Sir Baz North, deputy commander capability and air member for personnel and capability, visited the college this week (Monday 22 February) to see its state-of-the-art engineering facilities and speak to students on the BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Public Service.

Addressing a group of almost 30 students, who are training for careers in uniformed service, he said: “You are the future of our country; the ones who will be keeping people safe, whether serving in a military environment or in civilian service.”

Attending at the personal invitation of principal and chief executive Dame Asha Khemka, Sir Baz learned about the work of the college before touring its £5.8 million Engineering Innovation Centre in Sutton-in-Ashfield.

He finished by speaking to public service students at the Derby Road campus in Mansfield about his role and hugely successful career in the RAF, having joined the force following his state education in Sleaford, Lincolnshire.

Speaking afterwards, Sir Baz, who is based at RAF Air Command headquarters in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, said: “I was keen to expose students to the opportunities that lay before them in public service and, in particular, in the RAF, which has more than 70 different branches and trade groups. Each and every role requires vocational skills, whether serving as a pilot, engineer or administrative support staff.

"It doesn’t matter where you come from in life, everybody has an opportunity to achieve – provided you have the spirit, the desire and the determination to work hard.”

Praising the state-of-the-art facilities at the college, which completes a £50 million redevelopment later this year, Sir Baz said: “There has clearly been a significant investment and it’s great to see the expansion that is taking place. I’m also impressed by the college’s industry links, particularly within the engineering curriculum, which provides opportunities for full-time students and those on apprenticeships.”

Public service students said they found the talk by Sir Baz inspiring and motivational.

Jamie Bennett, 16, from Mansfield, who wants to join the fire service, said: “It was really motivational. Sir Baz has achieved a lot in life and showed you can have a good job and a rewarding career, as long as you put the time and effort in to it.”

Aspiring police officer Chloe Charnock-Peatman, 16, from Pinxton, said: “This has motivated me to do well at college and really push myself to get the good grades that I’ll need.”

Callum Williams, 17, from Mansfield, said: “I found it very useful, as I want to join the RAF when I’m older. Sir Baz proved you can get to the very top by working hard.”

In a distinguished military career spanning almost 35 years, helicopter pilot Sir Baz rose through the ranks to become one of the most highly-decorated members of the RAF. Joining as an acting pilot officer in 1982, he has held command appointments at all levels including No. 78 Squadron in the Falkland Islands, squadron leader with the Special Forces Flight and air commodore with the No. 83 Expeditionary Air Group in the Middle East.

He has served in wide-ranging roles from flight lieutenant, aide-de-camp (ADC) to the chief of the defence staff and wing commander, to station commander, air vice-marshal, chief of staff training and assistant chief of the air staff, before his promotion to air marshal; taking up his current role in 2013.

Sir Baz has conducted numerous overseas tours and flown Puma, Wessex, Chinook and Sea King helicopters, and led the No. 33 Squadron in providing humanitarian aid in Mozambique following the catastrophic floods of 2000.

As ADC to The Queen, he has managed a host of Royal and diplomatic visits and oversaw the Military of Defence’s airspace operations during Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 Olympic Games while serving as assistant chief of the air staff.

Sir Baz was awarded the MBE and OBE in 1996 and 2003 respectively, and was honoured with a Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the winter 2006 Operational Honours List. He was appointed KCB in the New Year Honours List 2015.

Julian Smith, head of sport, public services and higher education, said: “It was a privilege to welcome such a highly-decorated member of the armed forces to give students a truly unique insight into uniformed public service. Having come from a state education background himself, Sir Baz is a shining example of what can be accomplished if you have the will to succeed, which really struck a chord with our learners.”

Meanwhile, the college has received a prestigious RAF platinum award that recognises it as an important partner in the force’s recruiting efforts.

It is one of only 50 institutions out of more than 800 schools, academies, further education, sixth-form and university technical colleges within the RAF’s East Midlands and East Anglia combined recruiting area to hold platinum partner status.

It comes after more than 60 students applied to join the force between 2009 and 2014, following work by college staff and the RAF Recruiting organisation. The platinum partnership will help students to work even more closely with the RAF to develop the key skills and qualities it considers important in assessing employability, as well as encouraging greater numbers to consider the military as a career of choice.