Heathrow Airport is one of the largest employment sites in the UK and apprenticeships are vital to our plans for the future. Over 75,000 staff are employed at Heathrow, 10 per cent work for us as the airport operator, the rest for airlines, shops and other businesses based at the airport. Heathrow support many more jobs indirectly through supply chains. We are a major private infrastructure investor, spending £1bn each year, which has a positive effect on our headcount. We are currently building terminal two at a cost of £2.2bn, which will create 35,000 jobs over the lifetime of the project.
So, what is the business case for apprenticeships? Heathrow is a strong supporter of apprenticeships as a way to recruit staff and train them to the standard we require. We offer an engineering apprenticeship, support our retailers in offering apprenticeships through the Heathrow Academy and are looking to introduce a security apprenticeship next year.
Our engineering apprenticeship is massively over-subscribed; the first year of training is spent entirely off-site at college and wages start at £17,000. Over 70 per cent of the 350 apprentices trained since 1977 are still working at Heathrow and former apprentices currently hold more than 50 per cent of the positions within our engineering operations workforce at all levels.
There is a strong business case for us to do so. In customer-facing roles the better experience that the passenger has, the more likely they are to fly through Heathrow again and the more money they spend at the airport. Independent research now rates Heathrow as the second best European hub airport for overall passenger satisfaction. If the public and policy makers are to view Heathrow as a national asset to be proud of then passenger satisfaction is a key measure.
Our staff retention rates in engineering illustrate why apprenticeships are so core to our business model. Much is made of the adverse impact of noise for those living near the airport – we are also keen to make sure that the local community enjoy the benefits associated with living near the UK’s hub airport by offering good jobs and opportunities to young people. 22 per cent of employed people living in Heathrow’s five local boroughs work at the airport, illustrating our commitment to upskilling and employing the community within which we work.
We invest a lot of money in our engineer apprentices – approximately £200,000 in each one. Small businesses in a tough economic climate may not be able to afford this up-front investment, regardless of the gains in the future. We are sensitive to this, and know that our model will not work for everyone. But for us, apprenticeships are the best way to train engineers in the Heathrow way of working, and this pays dividends later down the line.