Life at MAN - Helen McNabb, Community Engagement Manager
Helen is a Community Engagement Manager at Manchester Airport, working with neighbouring communities to ensure they reap the benefits of having one of the UK’s largest transport hubs nearby. We caught up with her to find out how the airport supports local charitable causes, how residents can raise any questions they might have, and why Croatia is top of her travel wish list.
How long have you been working at Manchester Airport?
I’ve worked at the airport for more than 35 years and as you’d imagine I’ve seen a lot of changes in that time. I started in 1988 as a Publicity Assistant and have held various roles over the years. I’m now the Community Engagement Manager, a role I job share with my colleague Julie Walker.
What does your job involve?
This role is all about the interface between the airport and local communities. We work to promote the things that are good about having an airport as a neighbour, keep communities updated on any new developments at the airport that may affect them, and mitigate any concerns raised with us by local residents wherever we can.
Our team is also responsible for delivering schemes like Easter egg and Christmas present collections for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, an annual lunch for over-65s, and administering the airport’s Community Trust Fund, which donates more than £100,000 to local good causes every year.
What are the skills needed to do your job?
You need the ability to remain calm and polite at all times, especially when you’re dealing with situations where someone is airing a grievance. You also need to be flexible, with a positive, can-do attitude.
What do you enjoy the most about working at the airport?
The airport is such an exciting place to work, every day is different, there are often challenges to overcome which makes life interesting. And of course there’s the people – I work with some really lovely, talented colleagues.
How does the airport ensure that the voices of local people are heard and reflected in its decision making?
People can provide feedback to us directly through our outreach events or in writing, but most often their views are brought to us through the airport’s Consultative Committee, made up of local councillors, business and industry professionals, and community representatives.
We also undertake regular ‘trust’ surveys to directly ask for feedback, looking at how we are performing and what local residents think our priorities should be. We also produce a quarterly e-newsletter to keep residents updated.
What is your favourite community outreach project that you’re involved with?
My favourite outreach project has got to be the Cheshire Show – it’s a two-day agricultural show that takes place in Tabley, near Knutsford. We engage with hundreds of visitors , chat to them about the airport and their experiences travelling through, and we share our future plans. It’s fun but exhausting!
What is the Community Trust Fund and how can local groups get support from it?
The Community Trust Fund is the airport’s registered charity that provides grants for local community groups of up to £3,000, and overseeing that process is one of my responsibilities. Those applying must show how the funding will be used to achieve tangible benefits for the local community. We have helped amateur sports clubs, scout groups and food banks, among others.
Applications are considered at quarterly meetings by a board of trustees made up of airport colleagues and local councillors. If a community group, charity or not-for-profit initiative is based within 10 miles of the airport’s footprint, they may be eligible to apply for support. For further information visit the website or drop us an enquiry at email@example.com.
Which destination that we serve from Manchester do you most want to visit?
I’d like visit Croatia – hopefully later this year to celebrate my 20th wedding anniversary!
What do you like to do outside work?
I volunteer for a charity that rehomes ex-commercial hens. I undertake admin duties for them and run a local collection point, which means I take hens from a commercial environment and rehome them as pets. I also am an avid supporter of grassroots football – with both of my boys playing regularly!