Leader of Birmingham City Council Sir Albert Bore today praised Birmingham-based Willmott Dixon for its investment in people and skills when he visited the new Willmott Dixon 4Life Academy in Aston.

Willmott Dixon invested £1 million to set up the 4Life Academy, which opened at Electric Avenue in January to provide courses for 2,000 people each year to learn a variety of career enhancing skills. As an approved training centre for City & Guilds and the British Plumbing Employers Council (BPEC), the Academy will deliver training to support NVQ, City & Guilds and BPEC qualifications, strengthening employability skills in areas ranging from plumbing, bricklaying, electrical compliance and renewable technology to CV writing, leadership development and DIY sessions.

During his tour of the 4Life Academy, where he met a number of apprentices and others using the facilities on offer, Sir Albert Bore said: “Willmott Dixon is showing genuine commitment to the skills base of the city. The construction industry has been hard hit by the recession and I applaud Willmott Dixon for being proactive and investing in growth. I hope it inspires other companies in Birmingham to do the same.”

“The 4Life Academy is exactly the type of initiative the council expects from its partners; working to equip people with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in a tough employment market. It supports our goal to attract and sustain skilled people to drive our city’s future growth and we need partners that are aligned with this ambition.”

Willmott Dixon’s chief executive Rick Willmott, who was present to show Sir Albert the Academy, said: “As a privately owned company, investing in people is very important to Willmott Dixon; it’s not just an empty slogan for us. Since 2009 we’ve taken on 41 apprentices in Birmingham and everyone who has completed their NVQs has gained full-time employment with us. We’re proud to be Birmingham’s repairs and maintenance partner on 60,000 properties and will continue to make sure we use that role to support the city’s growth by generating opportunity for people.”

A national survey carried out last year by ComRes for Willmott Dixon among over 400 councillors found that a lack of skills was regarded as one of the biggest barriers to investment in a regional economy.

Willmott Dixon currently has 14 apprentices in Birmingham, while many more of its 700-strong local team will use the Academy to update skills and learn new ones, including NVQs, to strengthen their all-round abilities. The academy is also a centre of excellence for Willmott Dixon, meaning hundreds more colleagues will use it, along with other Birmingham companies and local people.

Rick said, “The 4Life Academy will equip thousands of people with skills to support themselves, their families, and growth in the West Midlands.”