How to become a ramp agent: Shannon's story

Meet Shannon, 19, from London. She's a ramp agent for British Airways at an airport in London. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.

Shannon wearing safety clothing and hearing protectors, smiling at the camera.
"My job is my gym!"

What is your job?

I'm part of a team who ensure that each aircraft we deal with goes out safely and on time. We also offload baggage and cargo that comes in on the aircraft.

What do you do day-to-day?

I work to a seven-day shift pattern, so I do seven days on, three days off, seven days on, four days off – that’s split into early and late shifts. Some of my tasks would be to onload bins (containers of customer baggage) onto the fronts and backs of the aircraft correctly. I’m paired with a ramp supervisor on shift.

What did you study in school?

I did Art, Computing, Drama and French for GCSEs, then I did Religious Studies, Drama and Theatre studies and Media Studies at A-level.

What skills do you use in your work?

Communication is a key skill as well as keeping up with the knowledge we’ve learnt in training. Drama has helped me a lot. In Drama you have to have confidence when you’re speaking to people, and you have to be assertive.

Using your initiative is very important in our role, because your ramp supervisor might not have the time to tell you everything to do. Our job is very physical, on your feet, up and active which suits me really well!

Is this the job you always wanted to do?

When I was younger I wanted to do interior design, but I took Art GCSE and knew it wasn’t for me. When I did my A-levels, I knew I didn’t want to go to uni, because I didn’t want to be in debt. I always liked airports and travelling, so I searched and found my apprenticeship.

Was it a smooth ride?

No, because I was one of the few women on the ramp when I started in baggage and, because I’m very petite, some people thought that I might not be able to do it.

However, my colleagues have always supported me and I am proof that girls are just as capable as boys in this role - I would absolutely encourage other girls to apply.

Shannon guiding a baggage handling conveyor into place.
Shannon guiding a baggage handling conveyor into place.

Top tips

  • Whatever you want to do, put your mind to it and you’ll be able to

  • If it doesn’t work out, then you can always try something else because you’re still young

  • Keep your options open and look at apprenticeships and different universities.

What to expect if you want to be a ramp agent

Airports need ground staff such as baggage handlers and ramp agents to load and unload luggage and cargo from aircraft. Ramp agents also guide aircraft to and from their gates.

  • Ramp agent salary: £15,000 to £20,000 per year
  • Ramp agent working hours: 44 to 46 hours a week – you could work evenings, weekends and bank holidays on shifts
  • Typical entry requirements: You can get into this job through a college course, an apprenticeship or applying directly. You could do a college course, which would teach you some of the skills and knowledge you need in this job. Relevant courses include the Level 2 Certificate or Diploma in Aviation Environment. You'll need two or more GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 9 to 3 (A to D) for a Level 2 course. You could train for this role through an intermediate apprenticeship as an aviation ground operative. This will usually take 12 months to complete. You'll do on-the-job training and spend time at a college or training provider. You'll usually need some GCSEs (or equivalent), usually including English and Maths, for an intermediate apprenticeship. There are no specific entry requirements but some employers may prefer you to have a few GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 9 to 4 (A to C), particularly in Maths and English. Seasonal work may be available, with large increases in the number of travellers in busy holiday periods.

This information is a guide (sources: LMI for All, National Careers Service)

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

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