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Heathrow can act as a blueprint for how to build a career

Chair of Heathrow Skills Taskforce, Lord Blunkett calls for the introduction of a brand new ‘Infrastructure Skills Passport’ to future-proof the careers of Heathrow’s workforce.

Students receiving their exam results this month should be optimistic about their future.

Many of them will have a clear idea of the career they want to build. Some of them will be taking the academic route, whilst others will be following their dreams in post-16 vocational education and training courses.

But what could be a more satisfying career choice than helping to build a 21st century Britain that is able to compete on the world stage? That is what Heathrow’s major expansion plan offers for the future. This includes innovative apprenticeship programmes including those offered by the Heathrow Employment and Skills Academy.

These are more than just jobs. These are valuable careers in engineering, technology and construction for young women and men in every corner of the country.

Personally, I am proud that these opportunities are also being made available in the four logistic hubs across the country and not just in west London and the south of England.

Heathrow’s commitment to use British steel in its expansion will boost demand as soon as it starts construction. It is a huge boost to a historic sector, creating well-paid, highly-skilled jobs and training in the North.

These hubs will pioneer off site construction methods, further spreading the benefits of the expansion project. Not only will the four sites bring cash injections to local communities, but jobs and opportunities too.

Improving our national infrastructure is something to be proud of and there will be plenty of entry points available, even at a time of wider uncertainty and disruption in the labour market.

Meanwhile, on the site itself, the Heathrow Academy’s Shared Apprenticeship Scheme makes training within the airport and partner companies possible. Successes so far range from a young female apprentice switching from retail to enter the carpentry trade, to another learning data analysis, setting up for a lasting career in information technology.

As Chair of the Heathrow Skills Taskforce, I set out how growth at Britain’s largest airport could make a lasting positive impact. Currently, many employers only train staff for immediate and short-term needs, particularly in construction.

We recommended introducing a brand new ‘Infrastructure Skills Passport’ to future-proof the careers of Heathrow’s workforce instead. This would give workers a record of personal achievements and transferable skills that would be recognised by industry and their future employers.

The Britain of the future will be designed by those opening their results envelopes this August. GCSEs, A-Levels and BTECs offer the knowledge needed to get started, and, separately it is to be hoped that the upcoming T-Levels will complement these existing qualifications. But in a fast-paced world, workplaces must invest in their people.

The stories from Heathrow can act as a blueprint for how to build a career at the centre of a changing economy and address the skills challenge – where today’s trainee can become tomorrow’s project manager and more.

Imagine being part of the team to deliver one of the largest national infrastructure projects of our time. With the tens of thousands of jobs set to be created, the possibility is finally here and applications are open.

Lord Blunkett is Chair of Heathrow Skills Taskforce and Labour Member of the House of Lords.

Image: Heathrow

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