Willmott Dixon has given a major boost to the construction industry by investing £1m in a new academy in Birmingham that will provide training and lifelong skills to 2,000 people a year.

The Willmott Dixon 4Life Academy, opening on 30 January, will be a national centre of excellence for the company as well as providing training for people and businesses in the wider community. It has just been approved as a training centre for City & Guilds and the British Plumbing Employers Council, enabling it to deliver a wide range of career-enhancing skills ranging from courses in plumbing, electrical compliance and renewable technology to long-term NVQ and City & Guilds qualifications.

Opening the academy underlines Willmott Dixon’s commitment to invest in communities where it has a major presence; in the case of the Midlands the company employs 1,000 people, including 22 apprentices, and is responsible for the long-term repairs and maintenance of 60,000 properties for Birmingham City Council.

The academy is located in a 14,000 square foot office complex at Electric Avenue in Aston. Willmott Dixon Group Chief Executive Rick Willmott says, “The academy shows our serious commitment to supporting construction skills at perhaps one of the toughest periods ever for our industry. It also underlines that training is at the heart of Willmott Dixon; we invest over £1.5 million a year in equipping our people with the knowledge and know-how to succeed and it’s important we also invest in facilities to support skills in local communities.”

The Leader of Birmingham City Council, Sir Albert Bore, welcomed Willmott Dixon’s decision to open an academy in Birmingham, saying, “It’s important the business community plays a part in helping drive growth and tackle unemployment, especially among young people, and that’s why Willmott Dixon’s new academy is an extremely welcome addition to the training and skills landscape in Birmingham. We need initiatives like this to give people key skills for long-term careers that will boost the competitiveness of our city and make it an engine of employment.”

The Rt Hon Khalid Mahmood MP, who represents the constituency in which the academy is based, said, “I applaud Willmott Dixon for seizing the initiative in establishing a new national training academy that will help support our community in a very practical way as we move through these tough economic times. This is a great example of how a company can demonstrate real commitment to making a positive impact on lives and leaving a real legacy. Willmott Dixon is showing leadership in creating the 4Life Academy and I hope it will inspire other companies to generate real opportunity for people.”

The Rt Hon Jack Dromey MP, representing the adjacent constituency Erdington and Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister, said, “The new Willmott Dixon 4life Skills Academy is good news for Birmingham, providing the next generation with the vital skills and training needed to build Birmingham and the West Midlands. The construction sector has been hard hit in these tough times but if we are to create the jobs and homes, railways and roads that Britain needs for the future then we must invest in Birmingham’s young people, who are rich in talent and want to find work or an apprenticeship. This is precisely what the 4Skills Academy will do and I wish it well.”

People attending the 4Life Academy will be able to access courses that include technical trade skills, emerging technologies, health and safety, supervisor skills and energy efficiency, as well as employability skills such as IT and CV writing. A series of community programmes and DIY sessions will also be run at the Centre.

As part of the opening on 30 January, Willmott Dixon also launched a new report setting out a gold standard on community engagement called ‘Transforming Communities’.

Mick Williamson, managing director at Willmott Dixon Partnerships, the company within Willmott Dixon that will operate the academy, says:
"We are delighted to be opening the Willmott Dixon 4Life Academy today. We have a long established relationship with Birmingham and we wanted to signal our on-going commitment to its future growth and prosperity.

"Community engagement and involvement is something we take very seriously, and so today we are also publishing our report - Transforming Communities - setting out how companies ought to engage so that communities genuinely see an impact, rather than simply being the beneficiaries of a tick-box exercise."

As well NVQs, the academy provides accreditation to the Construction Skills Certification Scheme and is being backed by the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC).