Can I get a university bursary if I want to join the RAF? And how can I move into HR?

High hopes

Q. I've just started studying for A-levels at sixth-form college. I'm not planning to become a pilot, but I'm interested in the RAF and I wonder if there are opportunities for financial sponsorship at university. I'd like to get a degree with the security of a job afterwards.

A. Perhaps it's not surprising that people tend to think of the RAF in terms of the men and women who fly the aircraft. In fact, pilots only make up about 5 per cent of the workforce, and the RAF needs graduates in a range of jobs. Bursaries are offered at up to £4,000 per academic year. The RAF is looking to sponsor potential air traffic and fighter controllers, as well as officers in supply, administration, engineering and catering. Doctors and dentists are also needed. Any degree is acceptable for non-specialist branches.Your part of the deal means joining the university air squadron, completing initial officer training after your degree and usually serving six years in the RAF. If you don't get through the training process having tried your best, you'll be considered to have fulfilled your part of the contract and there is no penalty. If you are now doing science or technology-based A-levels and are interested in becoming an engineer officer, look up the Defence Technical Undergraduate Scheme (DTUS), which offers training experience and the opportunity to graduate from the RAF College at Cranwell. You're advised to talk to the local armed forces careers officer before the end of September of your second sixth-form year. The website with the information you need is

Be resourceful

Q. I've worked on the customer support desk at an online company for several years and I'm looking to move into human resources (HR). What's the best way to get into the industry?

A. It can be hard to get on the first rung of this ladder: recruitment agencies are usually looking for people with experience. Even some assistant roles, which you would be aiming for, ask for qualified or part-qualified staff. You might want to consider part-time or flexible learning if you want to keep working. Most local adult education institutions run courses recognised by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development ( Studying will signal to employers your intent to move on in this area. The most popular and broad-based course is the Certificate in Personnel Practice, which is tailored for those who have little or no knowledge of HR. It gives a good overview of the subject and is suitable for those who don't want to specialise or are unsure which area to choose. It takes around six and nine months to complete, and you can find out where to study on Some institutions insist that you become a CIPD member in order to study. This means, among other things, that you get a free copy of the CIPD's magazine, People Management, and you will have access to the magazine's website, which has a list of job vacancies. Once on the course you might have an opportunity to network with those already in the industry, and you can start to pick up contacts. The CIPD also runs local meetings, and you can try to persuade local HR people to talk to you. Don't forget the newspapers: they are full of stories about the latest employment issues. Or you can catch up by browsing websites such as or

Careers adviser: Joe McTiernan, senior HR officer, Jobsite.

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020 7005 2143; or e-mail to