With National Apprenticeship Week (6th to 10th February) highlighting skills development, Willmott Dixon announced it will open a new national training and development facility in Birmingham as part of the company’s ambition to invest in skills within the region.

It further underlines Willmott Dixon’s commitment to Birmingham where it employs nearly 1,000 people and is responsible for the long-term repairs and maintenance of 60,000 properties for Birmingham City Council as well as being main contractor on phase one of Birmingham City University’s new City Centre Campus.

The Willmott Dixon ‘Centre for Skills’, set up by the company’s repairs and maintenance specialist Willmott Dixon Partnerships which is responsible for the upkeep of 60,000 properties in Birmingham, will provide training in a number of areas for up to 2,000 people per year, including it’s own staff who work in hundreds of Birmingham homes each week, with courses ranging from one-day programmes to four-year apprenticeships.

Students will learn a range of subjects including 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.

The centre will provide career enhancing qualifications such as NVQs and accreditation on the Construction Skills Certification Scheme.

Willmott Dixon will also work with City & Guilds and the British Plumbing Enterprise Council (BPEC) after it became one of the first construction companies approved as a registered BPEC training centre provider. As well as providing training to Willmott Dixon employees, the facility will be open to colleges, community groups and local residents.

The initiative is being backed by the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT), the Trade Union Congress (TUC) learning fund and Action for Employment (A4E). Willmott Dixon is also looking to work with Birmingham City Council’s employment access team and other partners such as Jobcentre Plus.

Rick Willmott, Group Chief Executive of Willmott Dixon, announced plans for the Centre for Skills at the firm’s annual ‘Investing in Birmingham’ reception. He said: “It will deliver the technical skills we require as a business and will also support our commitment to developing local skills. These will be qualifications employers want and the skills learnt are transferable within the job arena, with people outside Willmott Dixon also having the ability to undertake the same qualifications that our staff do, so a real asset to the community.

“Not only will this help provide sustainable employment routes within Willmott Dixon, it will support the Government’s wider skills agenda through training and development and ensuring those entering the industry have the necessary skills and competencies required by employers.”

The Centre for Skills is the largest of its kind for Willmott Dixon in the UK. Although the centre will be based in Birmingham, a final location is yet to be confirmed, however it will open in July this year.

Mr Willmott said: “We have chosen to do this now to ensure that our staff have the skills to deliver the quality of service required in an ever changing market. Training and development is not a light switch that can be turned on and off; 160 years of history has taught us this.

“The construction industry is continuously evolving and as a business we need to be able to adapt to it. It’s also about ensuring we make a wider contribution to the local community through skills training as part of our long-term commitment to the West Midlands.”