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A timely digital transformation

At the beginning of 2020, before Covid-19 had even entered our vocabulary, Synaptek was drafted in to implement a cloud server to overcome the limitations of communications training across the country. This isn’t the usual work that Synaptek delivers, but as our CIO, Karl Nicholson, is an active commissioned officer in the Royal Air Force Air Cadets, we were delighted to be able to support this fantastic organisation.

About the Royal Air Force Air Cadets

The RAF Air Cadets offers young people from all walks of life a chance to get active, learn new skills and make new friends in an inspirational and safe environment. Air Cadets take an invaluable set of experiences and strong personal ethics with them when they leave the Cadets that they can put to good use in their future studies and career. Karl is testament to this and credits his experience in the Air Cadets as a driving influence in making him the leader he is today.

The challenge

One of the key skills taught to the Air Cadets is radio operating, which can be useful in many areas of training, such as flying, leadership exercises and safety communication during expeditions and outdoor exercises.

Many Squadrons had historically been unable to start radio training due to equipment costs, being out of range of other Squadrons or due to local planning regulations for the necessary aerials. This meant that many Cadets around the country could miss out on gaining this invaluable skill.

Karl Nicholson was privy to a conversation about how the RAF Air Cadets needed to invest in a solution to address this issue and, as the CIO of a digital innovation company, Karl was delighted to be in a position to volunteer Synaptek’s services. Synaptek implemented an Amazon Web Services (AWS) server and agreed to host it at no cost.

The server was made available in February 2020, but we never could have predicted how timely this was as the nation went into lockdown just a month later! The new cloud server has not only helped to resolve the radio operating challenge but has also enabled the RAF Air Cadets to continue to support and train Cadets remotely during lockdown.

The solution in more detail

To resolve the radio operating issues, over the last year the Air Cadets have developed a VOIP based radio operator training system called ‘Channel-D’. This allows Cadets and staff to operate a radio simulator and talk to all other Cadet units around the country, which includes Sea and Marine Cadets.

Some Squadrons operate from facilities where the computer systems have been locked down to prevent software from being installed. These restrictions are in place where the Cadet units share facilities with schools or other cadet forces. This means that access to downloaded software would be restricted to a proportion of Cadets. The key to delivering this digital transformation was that the software was entirely browser-based and all servers cloud-based.

The AWS server instance enables Cadets to do all of their training online with just a microphone and headset to gain the benefits of the complete range of radio operator training without restriction. This has also given the Air Cadets CIS Training Team more freedom to develop other enhancements and improve the Cadets learning experience.

Perhaps most fortuitous was the fact that the solution was implemented in time for staff to deliver remote training to Cadets during lockdown.

Squadron Leader, Dave Pink, who is in charge of the Cyber training nationally said, “Synaptek has enabled us to provide all of our Cadets with access to innovative training wherever they are. This will enhance their skills and experience and has helped us to continue to provide our services in these unprecedented times. We’re delighted that Synaptek has chosen to support the RAF Air Cadets.”

Karl Nicholson, CIO at Synaptek, commented, “It’s great to be giving back to our local community and supporting the incredible Air Cadets programme. We’re also delighted that this digital transformation was put in place in time to support the Cadets during the restrictions of the pandemic.”

If you’d like to join the Royal Aire Force Air Cadets, you can find out more at https://www.raf.mod.uk/aircadets/