Task force to pre-empt skills crisis at Gatwick

Private and public-sector employers at Gatwick have formed a task force to
ensure that the airport’s expansion is not handicapped by skills shortages.

Directors from BAA Gatwick, economic advisers from local businesses and
representatives from the county and borough councils have set up the Gatwick
Employment Forum to look at the challenges facing the airport’s expanding
labour market.

A survey of 300 companies based at the airport, by BAA Gatwick’s strategy
planning and environment department, shows that the number of airport employees
has risen by 15 per cent over the past four years to 30,000 and is forecast to
increase to 34,000 by 2008.

The forum will provide information on the size and character of the airport
workforce, identify skills shortages and highlight key local issues which
affect employment, such as housing, transport and demographics.

Cathy Wilcher, BAA Gatwick’s HR director, said this information is crucial
to ensure the skills of potential employees are matched with vacancies on
offer.

She said, "The workforce across the airport is so extensive and diverse
it is vital that we as a major employer closely monitor and understand the
trends and character of all the staff based at Gatwick to help us understand
the labour market.

"We are looking to expand future surveys to embrace topics such as
employees’ home locations, travel-to-work patterns, specific areas experiencing
recruitment problems and training and forecast areas of future growth and staff
shortages."

The forum will meet once a year. But a series of working groups – including
one on recruitment, retention and best practice, another on transport and
travel to work and a third covering housing and the impact on recruitment –
will meet more often.

By Ben Willmott

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