Blog: People Development SECBE Awards 2020 finalist - Dry Lining Academy at HMP Elmley (Willmott Dixon)

16 June 2020

sponsored by Cheesmur Building Contractors

People Development SECBE Awards 2020 finalist - Dry Lining Academy at HMP Elmley (Willmott Dixon)

In May 2019, Willmott Dixon launched the first training academy to upskill prison inmates. Based at HMP Elmley, the Willmott Dixon Dry Lining Academy is a unique model to address the construction industry’s skills gap and help former offenders find jobs on release.

Prison isn’t about punishment but rehabilitation. However, to make this happen ex-offenders need help to rebuild their lives. Only 17% of ex-offenders manage to get a job within a year of release. Employment is key - ex-offenders who find jobs are up to 9% less likely to reoffend. Reoffending costs the UK economy £15 million per year. Willmott Dixon’s Dry Lining Academy provides this element and helps address the skills shortage in the construction industry.

They chose HMP Elmley because it is a prison with a high rate of reoffending and a problem getting ex-offenders into meaningful work. Initially, they ran a programme in the prison called 'Ready for the Gate' which identified skills gaps in the community and gave inmates the necessary qualifications for employment. The programme was aimed at Category C prisoners who currently serve sentences between 12-16 weeks. Their people trained inmates in CITB approved Health and Safety and provided them with the opportunity to gain CSCS cards, meaning they were job-ready upon release.

The success of this programme led to the launch of their Dry Lining Academy in July 2019. Shortages of dry liners are at an all-time high. It’s a skill that can be trained within six weeks – suitable for the Category C prisoners – and offers real employment opportunities. With assistance from the prison, they identified prisoners who showed a desire to learn, providing them with two days CITB safety training. They arranged for the CSCS bus to attend the prison to allow prisoners to take their test and gain their CSCS card. Upon release, they are issued with their card and, wherever possible, an offer of employment via their supply chain partners.

All training carried out within HMP Elmley has been done so on a voluntary basis with no financial cost to the prison or individuals. The training offered would cost approximately £250 per person if carried out via an external service provider.

Through this scheme, they hope to address the current skills shortage and help reduce the overall prison services re-offending rate (currently 56%). In 2016, the reoffending rate for the prisoners at HMP Elmley who took part in their programme was 15%. Following the completion of their training in the Dry Lining Academy none have reoffended.

  • 72 prisoners successfully trained with 40 finding employment on release
  • Overall social value figure: £4.41 million

Resident, HMP Elmley:

“It’s been brilliant to be part of it. It’s not just a box ticking exercise. The amount of people who have been offered employment is excellent. It’s helped people to change their attitudes.”

Andy Davy, Deputy Governor, HMP Elmley:

“For our residents, it’s given them some skills that they can leave prison knowing they’re going into employment. There’s hope they’re not going to return to prison because Willmott Dixon is providing them with self-worth and they’re proving to themselves they’ve changed their life for the better.”


  • The first ever training academy to open in a UK prison
  • A proven model for helping ex-offenders successfully into paid employment and preventing reoffending
  • Addresses the skills shortage in the construction industry helping to sustain the future of the sector

About the People Development Award: 

People are our greatest asset and this award recognises organisations that appreciate and nurture their workforce to ensure they maximise the value of everyone’s contribution to the business. By creating inclusive workplaces which support people of all abilities through training initiatives, education, mentoring, support networks and innovative programmes, companies can demonstrate a significant impact on the future of their businesses and the wider construction industry.

> Find out more about the other finalists here

Recent Blog Posts

SECBE Awards 2021 finalist - Bicester Heritage
13 May 2021
sponsored by Artelia Group
Read More

SECBE Awards 2021 finalist - hub by Premier Inn, Shoreditch
13 May 2021
sponsored by Artelia Group
Read More

SECBE Awards 2021 finalist - Long Curtain Moat
13 May 2021
sponsored by Artelia Group
Read More