Heathrow Skills Taskforce seeking views on future talent strategy

The Heathrow Skills Taskforce, chaired by Lord David Blunkett, has opened a six week, UK-wide online forum to gather independent views on the airport’s future education, employment and skills strategy.

Speaking at the 2017 TUC Annual conference, Heathrow Chief People Officer Paula Stannett called for union members to continue their close working relationship with the airport by having their say. An expanded Heathrow could be the largest unionised workforce in Britain.

The 14-member strong Skills Taskforce is looking for the best ways to capitalise on the once-in-a generation careers and skills opportunities to be created through Heathrow expansion. With as many as 100,000 of the new jobs expected to be created outside of London and the south east, Heathrow wants to encourage the widest range of educational stakeholders and those with experience in building infrastructure across Britain to have their say.

The Taskforce will aim to use feedback from the online forum to help identify the best teaching, employment and career progression opportunities to help the airport be a role model for social mobility and diversity. To increase diversity and promote opportunity, the Taskforce will also be looking at ways of encouraging returners or those seeking new opportunities including older workers. Ideas will be incorporated into the Taskforce’s final set of recommendations which will be given to Heathrow by the end of 2018.

Earlier this year, Lord Blunkett convened senior leaders in major infrastructure projects including Tideway, HS2, Crossrail and Hinkley Point to discuss the need for collaboration on skills and the co-ordination of timetables to ensure a steady jobs pipeline for generations of workers to come.

In a joint response to the Government’s Green Paper “Building our Industrial Strategy”, the Skills Taskforce and other infrastructure projects have stressed the importance of this overarching skills strategy. Coming ahead of what is likely to be a period of uncertainty in which major infrastructure projects will provide crucial stability, the Taskforce and other infrastructure projects have called on the Government to ensure the right level of investment is in place to boost the UK construction workforce.

The Rt Hon, Lord David Blunkett, Chair of the Heathrow Skills Taskforce and Former Secretary of State for Education and Employment, said: “Heathrow has an important role to play in developing the talent needed now and for the success of future projects and enable Britain to become a world leader in infrastructure developments. The Taskforce have been working closely with Heathrow and other major infrastructure project groups, to share best practice and find ways to address fluctuations in labour supply and demand – but we need to cast the net wider, both geographically and in engaging SME’s.

“We want to hear from those in the community and on the frontline who help to support our young people to transition successfully from education into sustained employment and a fulfilling career. It is only by working together that we can fully understand the challenges and opportunities that exist to deliver a lasting economic legacy for future generations.”

Gail Cartmail, Assistant General Secretary (AGS) Unite, and member of the TUC Executive Committee and General Council, said: “The Heathrow Skills Taskforce has brought forward centre stage the scale of the challenge in meeting the skill demands to deliver major infrastructure projects. Pivotal is the role good quality ‘earn as you learn’ apprenticeships will play in shaping the UK’s future workforce and the role major projects play in ensuring delivery through their supply chains.”

Heathrow airport already supports one in five local jobs (22%), making the airport one of the largest single employment sites in the country. Heathrow expansion will deliver up to 77,000 additional local jobs, and create 5,000 new apprenticeships doubling the number that will be provided by the project to 10,000 by 2030.

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