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Willmott Dixon launches training first at Kent prison

Willmott Dixon has created a unique model to help the construction industry tackle its skills challenge by setting up the first of what it hopes will be a series of academies within prison environments that help former offenders find jobs on their release.

The company has teamed up with HMP Elmley in Kent to launch the Willmott Dixon Building Lives Drylining Academy to provide residents with drylining skills and a CSCS card to help them move straight into employment when back in the community. It comes after the CITB’s annual Construction Skills Network report recently predicted approximately 168,500 jobs will be created in construction over the next five years to meet demand.

The launch was made possible after Willmott Dixon and its supply chain converted a warehouse inside the prison into an academy facility. They have also equipped prison officers with accredited skills necessary to deliver six week long in-house courses for prison residents, a sustainable and replicable training model believed to be a UK first.

The academy aims to upskill over 100 HMP Elmley residents each year so they are ‘job ready’ on release and ready to find careers in construction.

2. Willmott Dixon’s supply chain partners and local job agencies are part of the process to help them find work, which is important as it is estimated that only 17% of ex-offenders quickly get work on release, with re-offending more likely for those who are unemployed.

This is the third Building Lives Academy launched by Willmott Dixon within the last 12 months. Its academies in Croydon and Kingston, based adjacent to construction projects being delivered in these two London boroughs, have already equipped over 150 young unemployed people with key construction skills. Candidates who attend at Croydon and Kingston get a Level 1 Certificate in Construction Operations, Level 1 Certificate in Health and Safety at Work, plus a CSCS card. Afterwards, candidates are supported to apply for work with Willmott Dixon, supply chain partners or other construction opportunities advertised by a local employment service.

The academies are part of Willmott Dixon’s ‘purpose beyond profit’ ethos to play an active role in strengthening the well-being of society through the contribution of its people.   Last year, four out of five Willmott Dixon people undertook a community-related project as part of the company’s volunteering policy.

Willmott Dixon’s regional head of legacy Richard Pickett, who helped set up the drylining academy, said, “It’s a logical step to tap into the potential of people who are in prison but keen to find a sustainable and rewarding job on release. Our industry needs to constantly think of imaginative new ideas if we are to attract the people we need and this is a very replicable model that’s easy to migrate to other UK prisons.”

Andy Davy, HMP Elmley deputy governor, said, “HMP Elmley and the Reducing ReOffending team are excited to be working in partnership with Willmott Dixon. Being able to better prepare our residents with the appropriate skills to transition straight into employment upon release is a priority for the Prison. Employment is a definite contributor to the reduction in offending behaviour and helps to build stronger family stability.”

Willmott Dixon managing director in South London and southern Homes Counties, Roger Forsdyke, added: “Our company is committed to transforming 10,000 people’s life chances by 2020 and this academy is very much aimed at delivering this promise.”

Willmott Dixon’s focus on contributing to society’s well-being recently saw the company achieve Britain’s most prestigious title, winning a 2018 Queen’s Award for Enterprise for its approach to promoting opportunity through social mobility.