Lord Blunkett to chair Skills Taskforce

Heathrow has announced the appointment of the Rt Hon, the Lord Blunkett as Chair of the airport’s new Heathrow Skills Taskforce.

During his distinguished political career, Lord Blunkett held the Cabinet posts responsible for Education, for Employment and for Work and Pensions and so brings extensive experience that will Heathrow hopes will help ensure the Airport provides further support at all levels of education, from local primary schools to the place of work, if expansion of the airport takes place.

The Taskforce will ensure there’s a clear plan  to provide the skills required to build and operate an expanded Heathrow. Its recommendations will maximise the employment benefits of this, and other private sector infrastructure investments, which are all the more important in these uncertain economic times.  The Taskforce will work with the Heathrow supply chain to ensure the skills required are developed across the UK during the third runway’s construction phase, ensuring a legacy for future infrastructure projects. It will also make certain that young people in the local community have the skills necessary to build careers at an expanded Heathrow.  This will include ensuring the right teaching, opportunities for employment, training and career progression that will allow local people to fulfil their potential, and ensuring that Heathrow becomes a role model for social mobility and diversity.

The Taskforce will begin its work as soon as the Government grants approval for Heathrow expansion, and will sit for 18 months. It will be comprised of 12 members with expertise in employability, education and skills, and young people. The Taskforce will be advised by a group of 15 representatives from education organisations, to ensure their recommendations are consistent with existing curriculums and programmes.

The appointment of Lord Blunkett comes as the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce publishes its report “Construction Pipeline Skills Analysis: Heathrow Airport Expansion.” One of the recommendations of the report is for Heathrow to engage early with its supply chain, training providers, schools and other agencies to prepare for the large increase in workforce requirements beyond 2020. To ensure the benefits of expansion are felt throughout the country, the Taskforce has been asked to explore a skills strategy focussed around regional procurement hubs that will identify the unique sector strengths of each region and ensure the airport’s procurement strategy is tailored to complement them.

Heathrow Chief Executive John Holland-Kaye said: “In each of my visits to local schools, colleges and universities, I am inspired by the talent and potential of the students I meet. This is a unique opportunity to plan ahead to ensure that children in school today have the skills we will need – engineers, pilots, programmers and service professionals – while we build and when we have built an expanded Heathrow. With Brexit, it’s even more imperative to create opportunities for home-grown talent to meet the demand for skills in the future.

“I am delighted to announce that Lord Blunkett has agreed to chair the Heathrow Skills Taskforce. I know Lord Blunkett shares our passion to transform the life chances of young people through education and I look forward to implementing the proposals that will come from the Taskforce under his leadership.”

Chair of the Heathrow Taskforce Lord David Blunkett said:  “Too often in the UK we make large-scale investments in projects that deliver short-term results which do not benefit and include the wider population, or the long term needs of the country. There is no more room for lost opportunities. Our national infrastructure projects must go hand-in-hand with learning and training opportunities for the workforce of the future.

“This is what I have worked for throughout my years of public service, and why I am so pleased to Chair the Heathrow Skills Taskforce. We will be ready to capitalise on the huge training and education potential of Heathrow expansion immediately following the Government’s decision and deliver a new generation of home grown talent with world-class skills.”

Heathrow supports 114,000 jobs, approximately one in five local jobs (22%), making the airport one of the largest single-site employers in the country. Should Heathrow expand, the Airport say up to an additional 41,000 jobs will be created at the airport, including 10,000 apprenticeships, and tens of thousands more jobs around the country.

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