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​In a first for the region, a group of Hunter high school students recently encountered the Royal Australian Air Force firsthand when they participated in the Defence Work Experience Program at Williamtown Base.
Six Hunter students spent a week working alongside Defence personnel from 81 Wing in combined workshops at the avionics maintenance facility. The students gained hands-on experience repairing avionic items vital for F/A18 Classic Hornet Fleet operations.
All participants are currently completing the TVET Certificate II in Electrotechnology Career Start through Hunter TAFE.
The Defence work-experience program is designed for young students to help validate and demonstrate clear linkages between what they are learning at TAFE and the career opportunities available through the right skills education and training.
Adding to the uniqueness of the work-experience program, students visited the Hornet Flight Simulator operated by Raytheon. The facility tour gave students a chance to pilot the fighter aircraft in a fully immersed simulation environment. 
Sergeant Matt Elliott, an RAAF Avionics System Technician and part-time electronics teacher, facilitated the work-experience program. “The program is all about providing the link between what our students are learning in the classroom or the lab and the skills required in the workplace,” he said.
“This program also provides ongoing opportunities for Electronic Trades students studying at Hunter TAFE to work on base in avionic trade roles in their future careers.”
The students thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to work beside Defence personnel experiencing real-world applications in an environment restricted to those with appropriate security clearance. 
Hunter TAFE TVET student Jason Horn participated in the work-experience program and said: “I’m so thankful to TAFE and Sergeant Elliott for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It has given us a better understanding of different types of technical jobs in the Air Force.” 
After the success of the initial program, it is proposed this work-experience opportunity will be in place for future students involved in the TVET Electrotechnology Career Start course at Newcastle Campus.
Opportunities in this line of work are set to increase over the next seven years as RAAF deploys the new F-35A fleet of aircraft across three squadrons, two of which will be hosted at Williamtown. The fleet is expected to be fully operational by 2023.
Fifty-six of the strike jets will eventually be based at RAAF Williamtown, with the first two scheduled to arrive in December 2018. The other 16 will be based at RAAF Tindal, near Darwin.