Training the Next Generation

How one school opened its gates to industry, setting students up for success.

St Columban’s College Caboolture Aero Club is just months away from finishing their first Vans RV-12iS aircraft.

It has been four years since St Columban’s College established its aviation program, and already their aviation students are preparing to reach even greater heights than could have ever been imagined. As a secondary school boasting a rigorous Vocational Training program, St Columban’s is well versed in working alongside industry. Two years ago, the school joined forces with Flight Youth Engineering (FYE) and truly open their gates to industry with a dedicated aviation program. Today, that program has proven to be a wild success.

STEM Teachers Simone Buckingham and Anthony Green, alongside FYE, lead a team of Aero Club students each Wednesday afternoon for three hours. Students are mentored by industry professionals, including pilots, private aircraft builders and engineers during the process of building the Vans aircraft.

Thanks to the generous financial support from local St Columban’s community business owners and Brisbane Catholic Education, students have just received the finishing kit and engine from the United States, and are working towards final completion early next year. The program has no intentions to stop there however, with a 2nd Vans aircraft scheduled to commence building around the same time.

After the plane is complete, each student will be given 10 hours of flying time at the Redcliffe Aerodrome with FYE Director Paul Reddish’s flight school, Advanced Aviation Training, allowing them to enjoy the aircraft they helped to create. Following this, the plane will be sold, to help fund the College’s next aircraft build.

Participating students are predominately aviation-minded and are motivated to pursue careers as pilots or aircraft engineers, however there are students who are pursuing alternative pathways. Nonetheless, the skill set students gain – such as tool mastery, project management, communication and teamwork skills – are easily transferable across a great number of streams and are important in everyday life. Parents and students alike see great value in this program, helping to set up students’ futures in an impactful way.

“Students get to learn, commit and interact with industry mentors” Innovation and Partnerships Leader Simone Buckingham says, “It goes beyond usual work experience, as students are able to build long-term relationships with industry mentors over the course of approximately two years. The students are going to graduate high school being industry trained as each build session continues to build on from the last. It makes them more work ready.”

Simone said getting the program off the ground was not an easy task, and required a great deal of support from the College Principal Michael Connolly, the Parents and Friends Association and its wider community, including Brisbane Catholic Education. The College is also most grateful for the generous financial support provided from local small to medium businesses to enable this program to really take off for years to come. 

The St Columban’s College Caboolture and Flight Youth Engineering aviation program is doing its part to fill the skills shortage gap by connecting youth with industry. This could not be at all possible if it was not for the hard work and commitment from FYE Directors Ashley, Paul and Michael, and their team of incredible volunteer mentors. Each Wednesday the mentors arrive with passion and enthusiasm ready to pass onto the next generation of aviators.