The sky is the limit for Thomas Bennett Community College students as they graduated from Virgin Atlantic’s flagship Passport to Change programme yesterday (27th June), funded by the Virgin Atlantic Foundation.
"We are in our third year of the Passport to Change programme and every year without fail our students come away so inspired to follow their dreams and aspirations. It’s a real honour to be one of three schools worldwide chosen to participate in this programme that enables our students to learn new skills and consider their future destinations,” said Emer Lesova, Head of School, Thomas Bennett Community College.
Students graduated from the community STEM programme yesterday and enjoyed a special ceremony at Gatwick Aviation Museum, home to Virgin Atlantic’s very own A350 mock cabin. Gatwick Aviation Museum brings the history of aviation to life for all that visit and was the perfect location for Virgin Atlantic’s Chief People Officer, Estelle Hollingsworth, to award Thomas Bennett students with certificates of completion as they presented the design of their own airlines. Situated next to the runway in Charlwood, the museum also houses an impressive collection of aircraft and engines for visitors to explore.
Since September 2022, the students have been gaining knowledge and skills about aviation and the different roles within the industry by attending hands-on workshops, delivered by the airline’s brilliant teams from across the company. These include cabin crew, pilots, clubhouse staff, airport ground crew, finance, cargo, public relations, engineering and sustainability.
Estelle Hollingworth, Chief People Officer at Virgin Atlantic commented,
“At Virgin Atlantic, we believe that everyone can take on the world. We encourage an inclusive environment where everyone feels a sense of belonging; where our people, our customers and our partners are united, and all groups are represented.
“We want the careers of the future to be inclusive to all, regardless of gender, race, or economic status. Through Passport to Change, we set out to address some of the issues preventing this by inspiring young people, from our local communities, to achieve their dreams. I am incredibly proud of our teams and all the students that have participated this year, and I congratulate them on this achievement.”
Virgin Atlantic’s Passport to Change programme grew from recognition of a nationwide shortage of young people applying to study subjects that fall within the STEM category: Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. This is especially prevalent in economically deprived areas, alongside a gender imbalance of far fewer girls choosing to study STEM subjects than boys.
Emer Lesova added: “By enabling our students to experience not just the national curriculum, but also career programmes such as Virgin Atlantic’s Passport to Change programme, we ensure that they have a much richer learning environment and opportunities to develop into unique and all-round individuals. We celebrate diversity and inclusivity at Thomas Bennett and our collaboration with Virgin Atlantic affirms our belief that all students should have the same opportunities, now and later in life.”
Virgin Atlantic delivers the programme with three charity partners; Speakers for Schools assist with the programme delivery, The Smallpeice Trust is a STEM expert partner, and the UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency) is the airline’s international partner.
Virgin Atlantic plans to run the Passport to Change programme throughout the 2023-24 academic year.