‘It’s just getting your foot back in the door’: Hundreds look for work at under-fire airport amid cost of living crisis

From the shock of sudden redundancy in a cost of living crisis, to the excitement of a first step on the career ladder. Hundreds answered the call from Manchester Airport at a careers fair in Wythenshawe today (May 24) – each with their own reasons for hunting a new job.

The embattled airport is currently trying to recruit its way out of the chaos seen in recent months. Huge queues and delays are being blamed on staff shortages across the airport and the companies that operate within it.

At Wythenshawe Forum, just a mile away from yet more scenes of ‘carnage’ that were unfolding this morning, the airport was continuing its push for extra staff ahead of the summer. Soon after doors opened at 10am, well over 400 people had already entered the building on the lookout for a new job.

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Among the crowd were four friends who were recently made redundant together. “We went into work and everyone went on their morning rounds,” said Phil Platt, 32, of Sharston. “When we got back there were administrators and we were told that the company was insolvent.”

Phil and his former colleagues – hoping to find a job similar to their previous driving one – were clutching leaflets and forms picked up from stalls at the Forum. As well as the airport’s operator, a raft of firms were hoping to take on new faces – from retailers like WH Smith and Greggs, to on-site hotels and security, and companies responsible for check-in and baggage handling.

Phil Platt, Anthony Newby and Pavan Shrestha

“We’ve got to be positive,” said Anthony Newby, 41, from Sale, who was also made redundant. “You can’t let it get you down, but people are different. People were in shock, crying their eyes out.”

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A shock administration during a cost of living crisis was the worst news for many employees. “Financially it could not have come at a worse time,” said Pavan Shrestha.

The 48-year-old, from Stretford, had recently set up a pizza company with ‘a few people’, supported by his earnings from the previous job.

For 61-year-old Tony Nolan, from Sale, the redundancy led to him cashing out a pension.

Tony Nolan, 61, who was also recently made redundant
Tony Nolan, 61, who was also recently made redundant

“I’m alright,” he said. “But some of the lads and girls are saying it’s going to be three weeks before they get their redundancy, but I was told it would be about six weeks, so some are going to struggle.”

Across all the firms recruiting new workers, there were around 1,300 positions looking to be filled. Hundreds of people had pre-registered to visit the jobs fair, and the event saw a peak of around 500 people through the door.

Many had struggled to work during the coronavirus pandemic. Arron Smith, from Wythenshawe, was working for Menzies before Covid struck and had been in-and-out of work since.

Aaron Smith has struggled to work during the pandemic
Aaron Smith has struggled to work during the pandemic

The 36-year-old said: “I got made redundant because of the pandemic but I will see what they say now. It’s been tough, but my girlfriend and family have got me through. If it was just me I would have felt gutted , but the other year a lot of people got made redundant.

Julie Sherlock, from Wythenshawe, had also been made redundant from a business based at the airport. The 55-year-old lost her job in 2020 – although it was ‘not necessarily due to the pandemic’.

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People queue to enter the Wythenshawe Jobs Fair
People queue to enter the Wythenshawe Jobs Fair

She said: “I called it retirement, but my husband said ‘you’re too young for that’.” Julie told the Manchester Evening News that getting to work from her home nearby wasn’t always easy with parking issues – and she would leave home at 12.30am to get to work for a 1.30am shift.

She had been caring for her father-in-law until his recent death, and now she was hoping to get back into work. Julie added: “I’m only looking for a couple of days now – it’s just a bit of pin money really.”

As well as people hoping to get back into work, there were dozens of youngsters looking to start their careers at Manchester Airport. Local schools and colleges were invited to attend the careers fair, while others visited off their own back, full of hope.

Businesses were eager to recruit
Businesses were eager to recruit

Jack Hesketh had been working part-time at Domino’s but was keen to find what he described as a ‘first proper job’. The 19-year-old, from Warrington, said: “There aren’t really many jobs about, but the airport is a good place to work with a lot of opportunities.

“That’s why I came here to have a look at security, runway stuff, all that. I don’t know what I want to do.”

For Mackingson Paul, today was an opportunity to take a leap up the career ladder. The 29-year-old moved to the UK from Turks and Caicos Islands six years ago and now lives in Wythenshawe.

mackinson paul
mackinson paul

“I did security at a school but I wanted to upgrade my badge to level two,” he added. Passenger numbers at Manchester Airport have returned to 80% of pre-pandemic levels, and are expected to grow in the months ahead.

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With huge staff losses earlier in the pandemic, businesses are scrambling to take on workers to meet demand. They include Interstate Hotels and Resorts, which manages the new Holiday Inn and Ibis Budget hotels under construction at Manchester Airport, expected to open later this year.

Jamie Farrell, HR manager at Interstate Hotels and Resorts, said: “It’s really important that we support the local community. These jobs fairs are being organized to help organizations come out and meet people who are looking for opportunity not only to get back into work through recent redundancy, but also for career changes.

Wythenshawe Forum was busy for the jobs fair
Wythenshawe Forum was busy for the jobs fair

Ian Costigan, interim managing director of Manchester Airport, believes the outlook for this summer is ‘much more positive’ following a difficult two years in the pandemic – but says more people need to be recruited to meet demand. “We are making good progress in our recruitment drive,” he said.

“More than 1,600 people applied for jobs here in April alone and around 200 new starters are expected to join the operation this month, which will allow us to open additional security lanes during peak periods and improve customer service. We still need to expand our team further, though, so if you’re enthusiastic, customer-oriented and looking for the opportunity to do something different, we’d love to hear from you.”

Manchester Airport will be represented at another careers fair this week at the Albert Halls, Bolton, from 10am to 1pm on Thursday. Job opportunities at Manchester Airports Group can be seen online at careers.magairports.com

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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