Opinion

How Willmott Dixon benefits from the apprenticeship levy

As National Apprenticeship Week starts (5-9 Feb), Willmott Dixon’s Janette Welton-Pai explains why promoting this event matters to the construction industry.

Willmott Dixon apprenticeship
(Image: Willmott Dixon)

Figures published by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) in 2023 showed that about 225,000 people will be needed in the UK construction sector by 2027 to meet demand. That equates to an increase of almost 45,000 people per year between 2023 and 2027 to meet anticipated industry output. 

The figures are part of CITB’s annual Construction Skills Network report, which provides insights into the construction economy and its changing workforce requirements. They highlight significant and ongoing recruitment and training challenges the sector faces.

Quite simply, our future depends on attracting and upskilling many more people. This puts National Apprenticeship Week into sharp focus as an opportunity to showcase the industry and attract the best.

While in the past there may have been misperceptions about apprenticeships based on outdated stereotypes, this has changed. Willmott Dixon’s own approach has evolved massively, to a point where apprenticeships are integral to developing skills and supporting career mobility for our people.

To do this, we use funding from the apprenticeship levy to access an array of apprenticeships for our people. This pathway of learning is not only for people at the start of their careers. It is also available for people already established in their roles who want to turbocharge their opportunities with new skills and qualifications.

Meeting the changing skills landscape

We place a lot of emphasis on our management trainee programme as the foundation for a new generation of future leaders. There’s no better illustration than Graham Dundas, our new chief executive, who started on the programme in 1998.

Success means adapting. In recent years, we have moved away from registering all management trainees for degree courses to now include apprenticeships. Many trainees are now registered for apprenticeships at levels 4-6 (equivalent to a degree).  This includes Construction Site Management, Quantity Surveying technician, Design and Construction Management and Construction Site Supervisor apprenticeships.

However, as mentioned, it’s not just about people at the start of their careers.  Apprenticeships are becoming important in supporting our business priorities. An example is our data apprenticeship, which is being delivered by Corndel and Imperial College Business School. In January 2024, 12 of our people started the level 3 data-driven apprenticeship programme, following the success of recent learners who completed the level 4 data analyst apprenticeship. 

This shows how apprenticeships can meet the changing skills landscape in an era of unprecedented technological innovation and change. We’re on a journey to establish a common culture to use data to its full potential, which this apprenticeship neatly serves.

Apprenticeships are allowing our people to progress their careers at different levels. As a company that wants its people to feel challenged and able to enjoy a pathway for their own personal development, this is important. 

Futureproofing the industry

Apprenticeships help us develop potential and retain talent. Our focus on using apprenticeships to support mid-career upskilling and mobility has seen us register people for HR support at level 3, Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Practitioner at level 4, and Digital and Technology Solutions Professional at level 6.

This was recognised in November 2023, with a second Gold in The 5% Club’s ‘Earn and Learn’ Awards.

So with the national spotlight on apprenticeships, it’s a timely reminder of the role they play in addressing recruitment, skills and career progression. Certainly, at Willmott Dixon, they are vital to us remaining an employer of choice and a key element in helping our people enjoy what we term a ‘career of a lifetime’. 

Janette Welton-Pai is funding and learning manager at Willmott Dixon.

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