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It’s International Youth Day, a day to celebrate young people and emphasise the importance and value of their voices and actions.  

At Heathrow, we celebrate and value young people. For 6 years, we’ve been supporting the Hebe Foundation – a charity that creates innovative and educational youth projects for young people. The airport has been working with Hebe on a variety of community projects from Junior Apprentice to Dragons Den and mentoring placements. This is to help young people not only learn new skills but also discover and use their talents.

We’ve caught up with Heathrow’s, Erol Thompson who shares his passion for working with the Hebe Foundation, how the UK’s hub airport supports young people and advice to those looking to develop their skills and lead to action. 

Q&A - Erol Thompson, Heathrow's Head of OR and Airline Moves


The Hebe Foundation create innovative, inspiring, educational, safe and fun youth projects with an emphasis on young people from challenging, non-privileged environments. Hebe is a not-for-profit, youth organisation working with young people, aged 13-20 years old to help them discover & use their talents.

In doing so, Hebe has achieved recognition from Buckingham Palace and Downing Street and is respected as a leading ‘youth voice’ within the UK.  Hebe has been working successfully on a variety of community projects in partnership with Heathrow since 2014 (6 years)! 

Each year the Hebe/Heathrow partnership runs a dedicated ‘Heathrow’ site of Hebe's Junior Apprentice youth project (yes! based on the popular BBC series - 'The Apprentice' but we do it for real), so young people from the surrounding areas can access the full Hebe program.

The photo shows one of our covid safe site ‘bubbles’ from Junior Apprentice 2020 which completed on Saturday 8th August. Our Heathrow winner who lives in the local area, Abdul did a fantastic job and beat 20 others to take the area prize. 185+ young people competed in this year's Junior Apprentice programme across all sites. 

"Young people find that the projects help them to define further education and career paths while establishing lasting friendships with other participants."

Erol Thompson , Heathrow

The Hebe Foundation started 13 years ago with a desire to produce socially impactful youth work in response to reduced employment opportunities and increasing gang and gun crime, particularly among young people from non-privileged backgrounds. I have been personally involved as a youth worker/volunteer and now trustee for around 10 years. As a mentor, coach and Heathrow professional this work combines all my passions. I'm so grateful that I work for an organisation that actively encourages me to do this while helping other colleagues to experience it too.

I feel it aligns with Heathrow 2.0 which aims to make this community a 'great place to live' and so my goal is to successfully enhance the relationship between Heathrow and it’s communities via grassroots community organisations like Hebe to deliver meaningful, impactful opportunities for young people.  

Interestingly, I see my role as connecting Team Heathrow colleagues to community volunteering opportunities especially within a diversity and inclusion context. In the last 6 years at Heathrow and with support from the internal enha-NCE Network, I've helped 60+ team Heathrow colleagues each year volunteer to do exactly that, through Heathrow Dragon's Dens, voluntary youthwork and confidence coaching to mentor the potential leaders of tomorrow.

The main benefits for attending Hebe projects are increased self-confidence, business and social skills, character development and increased employability.    

Previous participants are now business and community leaders and entrepreneurs in their own right with some regularly coming back to Hebe to pay it forward to other young people.

UV Robot

My advice to young people today would be to take the opportunities available to you, even if you think it doesn't perfectly match your interests. You'll be surprised at how varied experiences can develop your character, skills and employability. 

Most Heathrow colleagues aren't now in the same position as when they started at Heathrow. They took opportunities presented to them and picked up new skills along the way, which enabled them to find their niche and explore that as a career.  There are yet more interesting career paths available to you if you have the right attitude and a good mentor. 

Young people can sign up to Hebe projects directly via the website and reach out via Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat to find out what's going on.


In addition to our work with Hebe, Heathrow works closely with local schools, recognising the importance of bringing the airport to life, and empowering young people to think outside the classroom.