Heathrow workers and local community to benefit as Unite launches learning hub, to improve employability

Unite, the UK’s principal aviation union, has launched the learning hub@heathrow to assist its members employed at Heathrow and the local community to develop their skills in order to improve their prospect of finding work and tackle the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Busiest airport in Europe

Prior to the pandemic, Heathrow was the busiest airport in Europe and supported the employment of 190,000 workers with 84,000 directly employed at the airport.

Aviation is the sector that has been most adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and as a result, it is estimated that over 30,000 workers at the airport could lose their jobs by the time the pandemic ends.

Local communities affected

The majority of workers employed at Heathrow live close to the airport in West London, particularly in the boroughs of Hillingdon and Hounslow that surround the airport.

In response to the growing employment challenges faced by Heathrow workers and the local community, Unite has been working with Ruskin College and local MPs Seema Malhotra and John McDonnell to create the learning hub.

Hundreds of free courses

The learning hub will provide hundreds of free online courses for Unite members and non-members alike. Courses available include: applying for work, CV writing, redundancy support, understanding the benefit system, job vacancies and stepping into social care.

Courses will be initially delivered online in a ‘virtual classroom’ but, as soon as it is safe to do so, many will be delivered at Unite’s Heathrow Office.

Unite has coordinated the launch of the learning hub to coincide with Heart Unions week, which is the annual opportunity to remind workers and the general public why unions are vital in society.

Assistance vital

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King said: “Tragically, thousands of workers at Heathrow have lost their jobs since the pandemic began. As a result, it has never been more important to help our members, their families and all of our local communities.

 “The learning hub will provide free educational skills and training which will help and support people to deal with the challenges of being made redundant and provide assistance in finding a new job.

 “The courses aren’t just for people looking for work, they are for people in work as well. There are courses designed to enhance skills and knowledge at every level, delivered in ways to fit in with their life and working patterns.”

Support to return to work 

Seema Malhotra, MP for Feltham and Heston, said: “Aviation has been one of the worst affected sectors by Covid-19, and it is predicted at least 30,000 workers will have lost their jobs at Heathrow by the end of the pandemic. That’s why we need to create new opportunities and rebuild our local economy.

 “This is why I am joining Unite to launch the Learning Hub @Heathrow. It will offer support to help people back into work and includes hundreds of courses.”

Massively helpful

John McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington, said: “This is a massively helpful initiative from Unite. Working with the colleges, this will give local union members and their families real opportunities to gain access to the training and skills people will need for the future.

 “With the current employment challenges people in our community are facing, it comes just at the right time.”