Heathrow Airport on empowering the next generation’s careers in aviation

In Issue 1, 2024, London Heathrow’s Chief People Officer, Paula Stannett, explains what the airport is doing to safeguard its workforce and ensure individual workers reach their full potential. Stannett also discusses how the airport’s plan ,‘Heathrow 2.0’, will grow the local economy.

In this exclusive article, London Heathrow’s Chief People Officer, Paula Stannett, explains what the airport is doing to safeguard its workforce and ensure individual workers reach their full potential. Stannett also discusses how the airport’s plan ,‘Heathrow 2.0’, will grow the local economy.

Heathrow Airport as a large hub employer

Hub airports such as Heathrow are like a city within a city. As hundreds of thousands of passengers navigate through the bustling terminals every day, they come across a variety of cultures, languages and backgrounds converging in a shared space. They also encounter thousands of hard-working diverse colleagues, all with their own unique dreams, ambitions and challenges. As Chief People Officer of Europe’s busiest airport, I am responsible for supporting these colleagues to fulfil their potential and ensuring they have the tools required to make Heathrow the best airport it can be.

A career at Heathrow should be accessible to those who live closest to it. By 2030, we aim to have 49% female and 39.9 % ethnicity representation”

From security officers to airspace modernisation managers, Heathrow is the largest single-site employer in the UK with over 76,000 airport colleagues in total. The people who work at airports are not only part of the engine that helps power the British economy, but they also have the power to help people make memories for life. 

It is no ordinary job. Many of these roles are essential. There is a reason airport colleagues were busy working during the pandemic. Thousands of colleagues came in every day to make sure cargo flights carrying essential medical supplies, ventilators, medicines and food continued to operate. I am proud of every individual that played their part in keeping the country moving during those challenging times.

Investing in the future of aviation’s workforce

This high-pressure and ever-changing role can be challenging, but it can also make for an incredibly rewarding career. At Heathrow we know this better than most. We are determined to make sure future generations have the best opportunities to have long and fulfilling careers in aviation.

There is nothing more rewarding than seeing some of my own colleagues at Heathrow using their voice to inspire the next generation. Heathrow’s very own Michael Glen is a shining example of this. As one of our Airspace, Noise and Air Traffic Management Specialists, Michael works with our stakeholders to ensure that Heathrow flights are operating within existing regulatory guidelines and noise abatement requirements. This involves using innovative technologies to explore ways to make our operation more efficient in terms of noise and fuel burn, not just near to Heathrow, but in the wider airspace.

With over 20 years of experience in the aviation industry behind him, Michael is excited for the future. Having recently been appointed as one of 10 UK aviation ambassadors, he is busy showcasing what aviation has to offer for the next generation. From fully-funded pilot training to apprentices in engineering, the career opportunities are endless. Michael is eager to promote aviation as a fully inclusive industry, reflective of modern-day society. This sits at the very heart of Heathrow’s people team’s mission statement. 

That is why we pledged 10,000 external jobs, apprenticeships and early career opportunities for those looking to get into the aviation industry in our sustainability strategy, Heathrow 2.0. Last year, we launched an inclusive employability programme to connect young people in our community with first‑hand experiences of the workplace, helping them make their first steps on the careers ladder.

Heathrow’s World of Work programme aims to open young people’s eyes to the unique and wonderful aviation careers out there, like Michael’s. In 2023, a total of 5,340 experience of work days were delivered through the Heathrow World of Work programme. We want to encourage young people to find their passion and give them all the tools we can to help them realise them, whether that be at Heathrow or elsewhere.

Working in airspace is only one career out of hundreds on offer at Heathrow, from hospitality and retail to logistics and engineering. Our Heathrow Employment and Skills Academy turns 20 this year. It was set up to ensure the economic benefits of living near the UK’s largest airport can be taken advantage of by our local communities. It has helped thousands of people either get back into work or kickstart a career across Team Heathrow. There are over 400 companies that work across our airport to make up Team Heathrow, so there is an abundance of opportunities out there.

Being accessible for coming generations

As I look ahead to the future, one of my main priorities is ensuring Heathrow’s workforce, at every level, is reflective of the local community. A career at Heathrow should be accessible to those who live closest to it. By 2030, we aim to have 49% female and 39.9 % ethnicity representation. While we have further to go, I am proud of the progress we are making.

We pledged 10,000 external jobs, apprenticeships and early career opportunities for those looking to get into the aviation industry”

A career in aviation offers an unparalleled opportunity for personal and professional growth, as well as a chance to contribute to an industry that plays a crucial role in connecting people and cultures around the world.

At Heathrow, we want to make sure all opportunities are accessible and that future generations have better chances of success than ever before.

About the author – Paula Stannett

Chief People Officer Paula is an engaging strategic business leader whose ambition is to make Heathrow a great place to work by creating careers, not just jobs, for colleagues and our community. She has worked at Heathrow Airport since 1999 and was appointed as Chief People Officer in 2013. Paula is a highly regarded senior HR executive with a strong track record of developing organisational capability, driving transformational change and growing an inclusive culture. Previous roles at the UK’s busiest airport have included HR Director for the Airports Division, HR Director for Corporate Services, and leading Heathrow’s Winter Resilience programme.

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