An ‘infrastructure skills passport’ could help deliver Heathrow skills legacy, taskforce say

The launch of an ‘infrastructure skills passport’ is just one of the many recommendations put forward by an independent taskforce in a bid to ensure the UK capitalises from Heathrow expansion.

The passport would work as a recognised infrastructure record of achievement developed alongside other major UK infrastructure projects, encouraging future employers to recognise workers’ skills and past experiences. It is being proposed by the Heathrow Skills Taskforce to deliver a legacy of skills and shape a stronger workforce.

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. The airport will respond to the taskforce’s recommendations in early 2019.

Recommendations are against a backdrop of the UK continuing to address skills challenges faced by infrastructure projects. In addition to the skills passport, the taskforce is keen that the UK’s biggest airport taps into talent available in higher education sectors and wants partnerships between the two to be created.

As part of the vision, Heathrow should aim to deliver 10,000 work experience days over the lifetime of the expansion project and engage with a wider group on entry points such older job seekers and groups facing barriers to employment, the taskforce adds.

Announcing the new recommendations, Lord David Blunkett, chair of the Heathrow Skills Taskforce and former secretary of state for Education and Employment, said: “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.”

The report published also 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 base”. The taskforce believes Heathrow has an opportunity to help address this skills gap.

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.

John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow chief executive, has welcomed the challenge laid down by the taskforce and says the airport is ready for ambitious targets.

He added: “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.”

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