The challenge for all youth groups, charities and voluntary organisations these days is the balancing act of finding the funds to invest in the latest technology. In today’s fast-moving tech world, to be the best they can be, these organisations need IT equipment to function, promote themselves and raise funds.
2496 Cumbernauld Squadron Air Cadets is a North Lanarkshire Air Cadet Squadron located in one of the highest socially deprived areas in Scotland, serving young people aged 13-20. The group provides opportunities for flying and gliding and forms part of an important service, in assisting in keeping young people off the streets. The cadets learn citizen and leadership skills, use flight simulators to discover what an aircraft can do and then sit exams on what they have learnt on the computers.
Three years ago, their cadet numbers were falling, as was attendances. Feedback received from the young cadets suggested this was due to the wait to get on a PC being too long, which was frustrating the cadets as well as the squadron staff. The need to purchase IT equipment was becoming critical.
“The issue was that our funding budgets are very limited, it was a case of working with what we could afford, which at that time was just one or two computers. Then, a colleague looking on the web for solutions to our IT problem found the solution, PETT.” Says Steven Cairns MCGI, Flight Lieutenant RAFVR(T) and Officer Commanding 2496 Cumbernauld Squadron.
The PETT scheme was designed to donate to charities the IT equipment they need to engage in today’s world. Empowering them to be more efficient without dipping into their limited funds.
“We couldn’t believe that there were companies out there like PETT that were giving so much back to charities. We explained our needs and within weeks we had 10 PCs delivered. The impact of this was phenomenal on our air cadet unit. For the cadets it means that the learning process is much quicker and as leaders we can use them for training, delivering presentations and interactive learning.
We also use the PCs to help us with promotion of the air cadets, community engagement, Facebook and recruitment, our cadet number on roll has doubled.
But that was only just the start. Recently, PETT have provided a new virtual reality computer. It’s an excellent piece of kit, a powerful PC with an impressive processor and graphics card. With this, we can run our 3D, 360-degree views flight simulator. It’s a Red Arrows programme where you fly as ‘Red 4’. We had a group Captain from the air force come in and try it out and the quality is so good that you feel motion sickness. The feedback from the cadets has been fantastic, they love it.”
These are some of the fun things the unit are doing with the donations from PETT, but there is a more serious side as Steven explains:
“Some of our air cadets have Special Educational Needs and come from deprived areas and families. They can sometimes demonstrate signs of withdrawal from the other cadets. Their parents have told us that the one to one time on the PCs and the staff interactions they get with us has proved to be invaluable. Parents say that they have made great improvement where their confidence has altered and their personalities are showing a positive change.“
So, what’s next for the Air Cadet squadron and how will the IT help in the future? The last word from Steven:
“We will be focussing on recruitment in the coming year. We go out to local gala days and we will certainly be taking the virtual reality PC and headsets with us as the new system from PETT can run two simulators. I know they will have a positive impact on our cadet numbers. We will also be going into schools to help support them with learning days. There’s a real focus on getting more pupils into STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) this year and we will be going into schools and the wider community to help them with that.
As Squadron Commander, I can’t thank PETT enough for what they have done for our air cadet unit. PETT took the time to understand what we needed support with and then delivered the equipment to help us. Enquiry levels have risen, cadet numbers and attendance are up but most importantly, PETT have helped us improve the overall experience for our cadets, which is our ultimate goal.”