The shadow housing minister and Wolverhampton North East MP Emma Reynolds saw first-hand how one company is helping the West Midlands economy build a platform for growth by investing in skills and apprentices.

Emma Reynolds meeting Willmott Dixon apprentices

The development of skills, experience and knowledge among young people in construction trades like bricklaying, carpentry, joinery and electoral appliances is vital to meet the growing demand for building work across the region. Emma met eight Willmott Dixon apprentices from Birmingham at its 4Life Academy in Perry Bar, which was set up in 2013 to train over 2,000 people a year.

Emma said, “I wanted to see how companies like Willmott Dixon are investing in our local economy’s future growth by equipping people with skills to enable them to have successful careers that will drive prosperity in the West Midlands. I was impressed by the apprentices I met at the 4Life Academy, the breadth of training they are receiving and their desire to build successful careers; it’s the type of investment I hope we see more of in our region.”

Emma was also given a guided tour of the 4Life Academy by its manager Danny Jones, who said, “We wanted to show Emma how Willmott Dixon is supporting our region’s future with a start-of-the-art academy.

“As well as being where Willmott Dixon’s apprentices learn skills as they study for their NVQs, we are City & Guilds and BPEC accredited and provide bespoke construction and support service related courses to over 1,000 Willmott Dixon staff plus those from several external organisations. We want the academy to become a major learning resource for the West Midlands and aim to increase the range of courses we provide significantly in 2014.”

Emma Reynolds with Academy manager Danny Jones

The academy’s courses vary depending on bespoke needs and a recent one included working with council teams to support how they deliver frontline services, including caretakers’ course where trainer-come-actors pose as angry residents, as council employees sometimes have to carry out forced entries in order to check the safety of appliances.

Danny’s aim in 2014 is to further increase the number of companies from the West Midlands accessing learning from the academy, which is equipped with a host of features to provide practical tuition in areas like IT, solar panel installation, bricklaying and carpentry, plus health and safety on construction sites.