CONSTRUCTION firms have joined forces to develop the next generation of builders, joiners, site managers and surveyors in Nottinghamshire. They have come together to form the new empa (East Midlands Property Alliance) Training Academy.

The academy will operate across the region and involve contractors including G F Tomlinson, Ashe Construction, Robert Woodhead, Lindum, Interserve, Clegg Construction, Jeakins Weir, Morgan Sindall and Wates Construction.

The new training academy has been launched following the appointment of contractors to the new empa frameworks earlier this year.

empa, which was formed by local authorities in the East Midlands and is managed by Scape, improves the procurement and delivery of construction projects and property maintenance for public sector bodies, saving time and money for them and in turn for council taxpayers.

Work by empa covers all types of public sector buildings, including schools, colleges, universities, housing, NHS, care homes, leisure facilities, libraries and more. The training academy will build on the success of the previous years where dozens of apprenticeships and new jobs in the industry were created alongside work experience and site visit opportunities for school and college pupils. The impact of the academy is enormous. In the last financial year, it has generated 62 jobs locally, created 34 apprenticeship opportunities, set-up work experience placements for 55 young people, engaged 7,831 pupils from schools and colleges and provided 1,668 people in the current workforce with training days to up-skill.

Ambitious targets have been set to further develop the empa Training Academy over the coming 4 years. Contractors have committed to offer work experience places on their sites, additional training for their existing employees and engagement with schools and colleges to promote careers in construction.

One apprentice who has seen the benefits of the academy is 18-year-old Chris Richards from Sutton-in-Ashfield. Chris is currently helping to raise the roof on 500 years of history by helping to restore Newark’s historic Old Magnus Building into a £5.4m National Civil War Centre.

Chris, who in his third year of a joinery apprenticeship, is learning traditional woodwork techniques as part of the team. He works for a main contractor, Robert Woodhead Ltd based in Edwinstowe.

He said: “I’m nearly at the end of my second year in carpentry and joinery and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. The empa training academy is a great way into the trade and you get such brilliant on-the-job training.

“I learn something new every day and I would really recommend an apprenticeship as a way into construction for young people who are interested in it as a career. I hope to qualify at NVQ level two next year and then progress to level three.” Mervyn Bollard, site manager for Woodhead Heritage – a specialist team within Robert Woodhead – has overseen Chris’s training on the Old Magnus Building project. He said: “We like to try and use apprentices wherever we can. Our contractors have apprentices as well which they guarantee to put on sites.

“Chris will be a very good joiner in the future and he’s shown that he is a very willing lad. He goes to college one day a week and of course receives training on site. This particular project is unique and will equip Chris with some fantastic skills for the future.”

empa Training Academy coordinator Sam Webster said that the academy was really showing the benefits of apprenticeships for the industry and for young people.

He said: “It’s really positive that public sector building contracts across the East Midlands will benefit thousands of young people, create apprenticeship opportunities and lead to new jobs.

“Each contractor is training focussed and there is a shared apprenticeship programme across construction sites. This provides fantastic experience which sees apprenticeship opportunities created that then lead to permanent employment.”

Head of empa Alan Coole added that the launch of the academy was excellent news for training in construction skills and young people looking to secure a career in the industry.

He said: “The empa Training Academy provides enormous benefits and has already seen scores opportunities created for young people in the construction industry across the region. Construction can provide an opportunity for training and employment not only in the skill trades but in administration, management and the professions.

“The news that such a wide range of contractors are now on board with the scheme once again is fantastic and plans for additional training for their employees is also a real boost for the industry.

“With more and more public sector bodies looking towards the construction industry to provide work and strengthen local economies, the empa Training Academy is not only timely but vital to the success of construction in the region.”