The independent Heathrow Skills Taskforce has today (10 Sep) published a series of recommendations that could help the UK capitalise on the tens of thousands of new jobs, apprenticeships and career development opportunities which  will  be created by the airport’s expansion. The report also highlights how Heathrow could play a significant part in helping to address the skills challenges faced by UK infrastructure projects.

The report encourages the creation of ambitious programmes and targets, and contains a set of practical actions for Heathrow, its commercial partners and supply chain to implement, including:

  • The launch of a new ‘infrastructure skills passport’; a recognised Infrastructure Record of Achievement developed alongside other major UK infrastructure projects, encouraging future employers to recognise workers’ skills and past experiences, aiding their career progression.
  • The establishment of a skills partnership with the further and higher education sectors; helping adapt and reskill the existing workforce and create a pipeline of talent not only to benefit Heathrow but also the wider infrastructure industry.
  • The promotion of career choices and engagement with the education sector; deliver 10,000 work experience days over the lifetime of the expansion project and engage with a wider group on entry points into a Heathrow career, including older job seekers and groups facing barriers to employment and progression.
  • The publication of an apprenticeship plan; specify the numbers and levels of apprenticeships expected from Heathrow and its supply chain in the future.
  • Lead business change, including ensuring suppliers and commercial contracts provide clear targets on apprenticeships, recruitment of local people and commitments to diversity and inclusion.

Launching the report at the TUC conference in Manchester, the Taskforce’s Chair, the Rt. Hon. the Lord David Blunkett, says the actions recommended in this report, if committed to by the airport, will deliver a legacy of skills and jobs creation across the country following Heathrow’s expansion.

The report highlights that the wider construction sector needs to recruit 158,000 workers to meet the forecasted 2022 demand across industry. The National Infrastructure Assessment in July 2018 wrote that the ‘delivery of high quality infrastructure depends on the availability of the right skills… and the depth of the supply base1 .’ The Taskforce wrote that Heathrow has an opportunity to help address this skills gap.

Announcing the new recommendations, the Rt Hon, Lord David Blunkett, Chair of the Heathrow Skills Taskforce and Former Secretary of State for Education and Employment, said:

“Our ambition is that these recommendations will help ensure Heathrow expansion and its legacy helps shape a stronger workforce for Britain’s future. These recommendations have the potential to challenge current industry practice for the long term benefit of the workforce and the economy.

“Britain is at a pivotal moment in improving its national infrastructure with major projects such as HS2, Hinkley Point C, Tideway, in addition to Heathrow expansion. It is clear from our research that collaboration will be key to meeting skills shortages and maximising productivity. Major projects, commercial partners and suppliers must work closer together to secure a new generation of home grown talent with world-class skills that Britain can be proud of.”

John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow Chief Executive said:

“The Heathrow Skills Taskforce has been undertaking essential work looking at how we can best maximise the opportunities expansion will bring, and today we welcome the recommendations and the challenge that we need to go beyond a ‘Business as Usual’ approach. Our role over the coming months will be to review these recommendations alongside our partners and supply chain and identify which ones will help us best deliver a lasting economic legacy for generations of people.”

Gail Cartmail, Assistant General Secretary (AGS) Unite, member of the TUC Executive Committee and General Council, and Skills Taskforce member said:

“Heathrow is an important employer and expansion will create thousands of local jobs and apprenticeships. I am proud of the role the TUC and the Skills Taskforce will play in ensuring these are skilled, good quality and sustainable jobs. I look forward to Heathrow’s response to the Skills Taskforce recommendations.”

Heathrow will deliver a response to the Taskforce early next year (The taskforce will conclude in its current form, but they will be kept informed of progress and as plans develop their expertise will continue to be sought as and when appropriate). 

Heathrow had a role in setting up the Skills Taskforce in 2016 to ensure a clear plan is in place to provide the skills required to build and operate an expanded Heathrow. While the Taskforce’s recommendations today also recognise existing initiatives such as the Heathrow Employment and Skills Academy (HESA), it also felt there was an opportunity to rethink and reenergise existing work.

The airport is also seeking to source the skills and resources needed for expansion by aiming to build as much of the project off-site as possible. To do this it is planning to establish four logistics hubs – off site construction centres – across the UK.

The overarching Taskforce recommendations invite Heathrow to:

  1. Lead business change:    Influencing the behaviour and actions of other organisations is crucial for Heathrow to achieve real lasting change, and to maximise the employment and skills opportunities offered by Heathrow expansion.
  2. Embrace diversity & inclusion: The scale of the expansion project and the associated potential employment requirements creates the opportunity for Heathrow to set the benchmark for workplace diversity, inclusion, and social mobility.
  3. Maximise apprenticeship opportunities: By working together prior to, during and post construction of expansion, Heathrow, its supply chain and commercial partners could provide a catalytic change in promoting apprenticeships as a rewarding career choice and help put apprenticeships at the heart of Britain’s future skills pipeline.
  4. Promote career choices and engage with the education sector: Heathrow’s ambition is to be identified as a career destination of choice. Expansion presents the opportunity to be recognised as the ‘blueprint’ for how employers and major projects can positively support and influence careers and enterprise.
  5. Enable skills for a lasting legacy:  Working with suppliers and commercial partners, Heathrow can pioneer new approaches that address skills gaps, align with the work of other infrastructure projects, and help Britain build an experienced and flexible workforce which is adaptable to future skills requirements.

In developing the recommendations, the Taskforce worked with representatives from the airport’s five key surrounding boroughs – Ealing, Hounslow, Hillingdon, Slough, and Spelthorne. The report has been shaped over the past 18 months by 14 representatives from business, local communities and trade unions – including the TUC – as well as further and higher education, schools and social action peers. When compiling the Report, the Taskforce undertook a range of research and brought together senior leaders in major infrastructure projects including Tideway, Crossrail and Hinkley Point C.

The Members of the Taskforce are:

  • Tracy Aust, Principal, West Thames College
  • Cllr Julian Bell, Leader, Ealing Council
  • Prof. Julia Buckingham, Vice Chancellor & President, Brunel University London
  • Neil Carberry, Former Director for People and Skills, CBI
  • Gail Cartmail, Member, General Council, TUC & Assistant General Secretary UNITE
  • Natalie Cramp, Former Chief Operating Officer, Careers & Enterprise Company
  • Becky Brooks, Member Engagement Manager, enei
  • Dr. Rania Marandos, Chief Impact Officer , Step up to Serve
  • Nick Caulfield, Principal, Ditton Park Academy, Slough
  • Jason Millett, Chief Operating Officer, Mace Major programmes and infrastructure
  • Scott Young, Head of Employment and Skills, Tideway
  • Heather Morgan, Group Head Regeneration and Growth, Spelthorne Council
  • Garry Phillips, Former CEO, West London College
  • Prof. Keith Ridgway, CBE, AMRC, University of Sheffield

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