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Apprenticeship Opportunities



ARA (Aircraft Research Association Limited) is a leading UK based aerodynamics research company with an international customer base and a worldwide reputation in aerospace. The company operates a world class Transonic Wind Tunnel test facility, alongside a design and manufacturing unit and an aerodynamics consultancy group.

Our apprentices and all our employees are based on one site, here in Manton Lane, Bedford with the initial training undertaken full time at a local college for up to three months. After this initial training, you will transfer back to the site to learn from our experienced engineers, and work towards an NVQ Level 3. Other required qualifications, such as technical certificates, are obtained through day release at local colleges or delivered on site over the following 3-4 years.

Starting in September 2017 we are looking to recruit four Apprentices: Electrical Engineering Apprentice; Mechanical Engineering Apprentice; Mechanical Craft Apprentice and Systems Engineering Apprentice.

It is a competitive selection process, we look for the best candidates but for those who are successful, the opportunity to train on the job (and be paid while you learn) is hard to match. 

Engineering Services Department

Engineering Services is responsible for servicing and maintaining all plant and equipment crucial to the site. This includes the Transonic Wind Tunnel, machines used in the manufacture of high precision engineered wind tunnel models together with more general site and building maintenance.

Supporting this team, we are looking to recruit apprentices in Engineering with a view to undertaking an Engineering Apprenticeship – noting there is an opportunity for both electrical and mechanical trades. Each successful candidate will follow a training syllabus to develop capabilities and skills required for the role. The training will be delivered on the job. Day release attendance at college on a weekly basis will form part of the training in support of studying towards a relevant City and Guilds Advanced Craft or BTEC National Diploma (ONC/OND and/or HNC) qualifications.

1     Electrical Engineering Apprentice (Ref 17/07)
Develop the competencies required of an electrician. Progressing from simple domestic electrical systems (covering both single and three phase) to working on ARA’s High Voltage (large scale) electrical systems – covering both maintenance of existing plant and installation of new equipment.

2     Mechanical Engineering Apprentice (Ref 17/08)
Develop the competencies required of a mechanical engineer in the varied role. On any particular day, this role could involve maintenance and/or installation of domestic systems such as building heating, working on site and infrastructure activities, maintaining large scale mechanical plant e.g. pneumatic, hydraulic and cooling systems. In support, there is a need to develop such skills as manual machining (turning and milling) and welding which all form part of the training syllabus.

Design & Manufacture Department

The Design & Manufacture department (D&M) is responsible for making high quality, bespoke wind tunnel models and rigs for testing in high speed wind tunnels. These enable our global Customers to obtain aerodynamic data, including forces, loads and pressures.

Each wind tunnel model is unique, designed and manufactured to extremely high tolerance standards (typically with permitted dimension deviations less than 1/10th of a human hair) and to challenging timescales (typically 3-4 months per project).

The Design Engineers use CATIA as the primary software suite for 2D and 3D Computer Aided Design, and the manufacturing resources include 3, 4 and 5 axis CNC milling and lathe machines, Electro Discharge Machining (EDM), as well as conventional machines such as manual lathes, jig borers and grinders. A highly dedicated team of skilled fitters carry out final hand working and fitting of parts (typically 150-200 per model) into sub-assemblies and the main assembly, which are inspected using a state of the art Coordinate Measurement Machine (CMM) and a Leica Optical Tracking Scanner.

3     Mechanical Craft Apprentice (Ref 17/09)

The Mechanical Craft Apprentice within D&M will receive structured and supported training and gain wide ranging experience across all areas of the Manufacturing Centre, to ensure a solid manufacturing foundation is established. On completion of your Apprenticeship you will have a primary skill and at least one other secondary skill. An attention to detail and a hunger for learning a broad spectrum of manufacturing and inspection techniques is required. On completion of each model project, all team members feel a very high sense of pride in what they have achieved; the work is at the pinnacle of manufacturing within the aerospace industry. 

Experimental Aerodynamics Department

Experimental Aerodynamics (EA) covers several experimental facilities the main one being the Transonic Wind Tunnel (TWT). The EA team includes Test Engineering, Operations and Systems and has the collective responsibility to deliver successful test programmes for ARA’s global client base. The work is varied and includes civil and defence applications, fixed-wing and rotorcraft/propeller models, with the focus on the production of quality data whilst working to tight deadlines.

The systems deployed during test typically need to change model position (and know where the model is located), measure overall loads on the whole model (or components), measure pressures locally (using state-of-the art pressure scanning modules) or across whole surfaces (using sophisticated techniques such as pressure-sensitive paint). Measurement systems using hot-film and laser techniques are also used.

The Systems team is responsible for the provision and implementation of systems to measure and record physical parameters from any of ARA’s test facilities and plant.

Team members are experienced in the specification, manufacture and installation of a whole range of transducers and associated signal conditioning equipment to measure parameters such as strain, pressure, temperature, velocity, acceleration and inclination to very stringent levels of accuracy.

4     Systems Engineering Apprentice (Ref 17/10)
The apprentice will follow a training syllabus undertaken by ARA in conjunction with Bedford College such that upon completion, an NVQ Level 3 will be achieved in Instrumentation & Control, Electrical & Electronic Engineering or similar. In addition, day release attendance at college will be a mandatory part of the training in support of studying towards a relevant City and Guilds Advanced Craft or BTEC National Diploma (ONC/OND and/or HNC) qualifications.

Through a combination of NVQ theoretical study and day-to-day hands-on work, you will develop a solid understanding of the fundamentals of electronics, such as Ohm’s Law which can then be applied in practical designs to meet customer requirements. You will learn and become competent in: Fine Soldering Techniques; strain-gauge bonding; signal conditioning; transducer installation and calibrations; component specification and model instrumentation design.


During all the apprenticeships, and as part of ARA’s training syllabus, there will be an opportunity to spend time in different departments in order to broaden your experience and enhance your skills and understanding of the business.

Apprentice Entry Qualifications:

  • At least 5 GCSE’s (or equivalent) at Grades A - C (must include Mathematics, English and Science). Additional STEM related GCSEs at Grade C or above would be highly advantageous.

Other Requirements:

  • Good communication skills, both verbal and written.
  • Accurate with a good attention to detail and ability to multi-task and prioritise.
  • Computer literate; good Microsoft office skill.
  • Enthusiastic and self-motivated to learn new skills and apply that knowledge.
  • Works well as part of a team.
  • Ability to think logically and solve problems.
  • Flexible attitude and approach, willing to go the extra mile.

The successful candidates must satisfy security clearance requirements. This will include at least 5 years continuous UK residency.

All apprenticeships have a starting salary of circa £13k together with a good benefits package, including 26 days holidays plus Bank Holidays.


To apply for any of the above apprenticeships please send a covering letter clearly stating which apprenticeship you are interested in together with your CV to

As part of your covering letter we would like you to include the following:

  • Why you are interested in the particular Apprenticeship with us?
  • What you would like to gain from your Apprenticeship?
  • What makes you the right person for this Apprenticeship?

Closing date for applications: 25th June 2017. We expect to conduct interviews during the first two weeks of July.

Aircraft Research Association Limited is proud to be an Equal Opportunities Employer.