Training takes off

Initial Air Services general manager Jim Yorston surveys the training awards lining his office, deep in the bowels of Manchester Airport.

"I'm very committed to training," he said. "I firmly believe it gives me an edge. It has a huge effect on the bottom line. But while we recognise we need to continue to develop our people, we cannot do it on our own."

Halton College runs NVQ training for Initial's airport cleaners, known as airport service assistants, at Manchester.

Since the start of the franchise two years ago, almost all of the company's 260 staff at Manchester have achieved an NVQ at level one, and many are working towards level two. Another 26 people have been trained as assessors.

The company has been rewarded with a National Training Award, and more significantly, with a contract to clean two terminals at Heathrow - which has extended Halton's franchise to London.

Mr Yorston said the NVQs have been the first qualification many people have gained since school, emphasising the role of workplace training in widening the reach of traditional education.

At Heathrow, the programme has included basic English classes for a workforce drawn largely from ethnic minorities.

While Mr Yorston insists that NVQs have been profitable, he acknowledges their use to his staff. "It was their decision really that we should go down the road of the NVQ. It was thought that it was of more use to them than something from within."

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