The redevelopment of the RAF base at Lyneham, Wiltshire, into the new home of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) training has led to exciting and profound changes to the training structure and environment for its engineers.
A major achievement and a huge investment, MOD Lyneham sees the centralisation of REME’s engineer training operations from the old Bordon and Arborfield sites onto one modern base that will provide the foundation for innovation in technical training. This involved moving over 250,000 assets – from toolboxes to Challenger 2 tanks – to their new home as part of the Defence School of Electronic and Mechanical Engineering (DSEME) composed of 8 Training Battalion (8 Trg Bn) REME, the REME Arms School and Number 4 School of Technical Training RAF at St Athan. Colonel Ed Heal took on the lead of DSEME in September 2016 for the next three years. “The new infrastructure and modern facilities provided at MOD Lyneham offer a huge opportunity for the Defence School of Electronic and Mechanical Engineering to deliver up to date and challenging training for the maintainers of the Army and Royal Marines” he says. One year into occupying a new site the snagging is largely complete and the focus is on developing training with our Babcock partner, and establishing relationships with local technical education centres across Wiltshire. The opportunities are immense and the progress continual”. 8 Trg Bn REME comprises five companies covering REME’s eight training trades; in total responsible for an average student population of 1,500. Its Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Daryl Hirst, has taken this opportunity to transform the delivery of technical training within REME, which has entailed cultural change as well as policy, process and resource amalgamation.
“We’ve designed the structure of the battalion very consciously to link operations between the technical training companies,” Lt Col Hirst explains. “Then within each company there is a ‘trade champion’ whose focus is on company progression, modernisation and accreditation etc. In terms of professionalising and improving what we do, I can only see it getting better and better,” he enthuses. Lt Col Hirst sees the biggest benefit arising from the creation of MOD Lyneham being that all trades are now learning together on one site. “All the trades are now training together as we fight – the training is integrated at trade level and also at the various different levels and qualifications, allowing us to ensure consistency of training. The entire remit of technical, professional, engineering and management training is done on one site. That is going to bring with it huge benefits in terms of effectiveness of the Corps.”
The new setup at MOD Lyneham has also positively changed the culture onsite. Working closely with Babcock, there is no longer a differentiation between the military, civil service and Babcock staff. “There was an old culture of the battalion doing duty of care and an organisation providing training. That paradigm has changed now,” Lt Col Hirst explains. “That caused friction before, but now it sits together under me, as the two are interlinked, and that’s really been an improvement.” As part of the championing of the trade training, Lt Col Hirst is keen to highlight that he really values the accreditation as such, he has incorporated scheduled briefs to all trade courses.
“It gives us huge credibility across the Army and attracts quality youngsters. The Army runs the biggest apprenticeship scheme and accrediting that appropriately gives us an edge over the other Corps and has allowed us to maintain, proportionately, the size of the REME compared to the size of the Army.” Lt Col Hirst goes on to explain that professional registration is also an important concern for him and he hopes to make this an aspiration for his engineers. “That aspirational element, a degree of recognition for achieving excellence, is a really good way to build that into the culture,” he notes. MOD Lyneham has a special registration agreement (SRA) with the IET, which, the new REME Arms School Chief Instructor Lt Col Peter McMillan explains ‘the training delivered within DSEME allows REME personnel to follow an approved professional engineering development pathway such as the IET’s. Soldiers and officers have a fully supported route to achieve all levels of professional engineering competence during their Army career.
Alongside the IMechE, which also has an SRA with MOD Lyneham, IET staff regularly visit the site to highlight what professional engineering institutions can offer. “The IET comes into Lyneham regularly to brief the soldiers and let them know about the benefits of membership, registration and also getting involved early,” Lt Col McMillan notes. “We’re also working with Sarah to look at bringing in Professional Registration Advisors (PRAs) to do workshops with our staff,” adds Warrant Officer Class 1 (WO1) Artificer Sergeant Major (ASM) Ian Hart, trade champion for the Helmand Company. “We’re hoping to set aside an office space for IET representatives to use for presentations, workshops and also so our soldiers can book a one-on-one slot with a PRA to see what they need to focus on.” Professionalism is at the core of the training that takes place at MOD Lyneham and it’s clear to see that its leaders understand the importance of professional registration and recognition of these career achievements. The IET looks forward to expanding on its already strong relationship with REME.