Willmott Dixon partners with materials company to improve prisoner skills

Willmott Dixon has teamed up with materials manufacturer Etex to improve the skills of prisoners at HMP Cardiff.

The training program will give prisoners at HMP Cardiff the chance to learn how to install plasterboard.

The course is designed to provide learners with the latest industry knowledge and best practices.

The prison replaced fireplace mantels with OSB boards to allow inmates to lay plasterboard and develop their skills.

Etex and Willmott Dixon also helped to create an open space, designed to reflect an actual construction site, with individual workbenches for each attendee and a canteen area including color coded drywall specification plans on the walls. To further help the course align with real-world practices, course trainers traveled to Willmott Dixon jobsites to see how the products and techniques performed in the field.

To help participants find employment after release, Etex has created a certification that each person will receive after completing the program, while Wilmott Dixon has worked with dryline installation companies to encourage hiring course participants once released from prison.

Course leader at HMP Cardiff, David Standing, said: ‘We are passionate about bringing this program into the prison system to help prisoners gain real knowledge that will be useful to them once they reenter the world. . This is a truly unique and exciting course that will undoubtedly make a difference in the lives of those who complete it, and we couldn’t have done it without the help of Etex and Willmott Dixon.

“The equipment and training they provided was invaluable to prisoners and instructors alike, and we were able to create an industry standard training course and area within the prison like no other.It has been proven that the best way to reduce recidivism rates is to reform inmates, and we look forward to seeing the success of those who complete our course once they are released from prison.

Jeff Fry, Etex Area Sales Manager, said: “When we heard that HMP Cardiff needed help creating an industry standard drywall training program, we been more than happy to help. As the sector struggles to recruit and retain workers, it is important to educate those who have never had the chance to learn these skills before, while offering them the opportunity to improve their future and start a truly rewarding career.

With the construction industry currently facing a huge skills shortage and an aging workforce, the program will also help create a new pool of potential construction professionals.

A white paper released by the Ministry of Justice in December 2021 outlined plans to provide prisoners with better educational opportunities, including vocational qualifications, with construction being named as one of the areas in which they could be trained.

Last month the chief executive of construction giant J Murphy & Sons chaired a meeting of an employment advisory board at HMP Berwyn in North Wales. Such councils will be in place at all 91 resettlement prisons in England and Wales by April 2023, under plans backed by ministers.

In 2018, Building News visited HMP Brixton to learn more about efforts to build job skills among inmates.

Alice F. Ponder