A multi-million-pound project to build the Aquatics Centre for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham will be "key" to rebuilding the local economy, according to Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands.
Street believes the £73 million ($95 million/€80 million) scheme will give local people the chance to build a "better future" following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The West Midlands Combined Authority is funding training for unemployed residents to learn construction skills by giving them the opportunity to work on the site in Sandwell and gain qualifications in carpentry, groundwork and logistics.
"Work on facilities like this is about far more than winning medals, it’s about winning jobs for local people," Street said.
"That’s why in these tough times we’re doing everything we can to ensure that building facilities like the Aquatics Centre is also about building a better future for local people.
"And this scheme is all about that.
"Construction was one of our region’s best performing sectors before the pandemic struck, and large projects like Sandwell Aquatics Centre will be key to getting back on track with our economic recovery.
"At a time when many people are feeling uncertain about their future, it’s encouraging news that this scheme is equipping West Midlands residents with the skills and qualifications they need to start a new career in this important growth sector.
"It’s always great to meet local people getting the new skills they need to give them a better future.
"We are determined that residents benefit not only from the opportunities that come from the construction of large-scale sports facilities like the Aquatics Centre in Sandwell, but also from the wider opportunities that will come as we get our region’s economic progress back on track."
Scott Bird, 40, is one of the local people who has gained a new job on the site and is working for construction company Morrisroe’s health and safety team.
"I was a union representative in the retail sector but was made redundant and decided on a complete career change and did some courses in construction," Bird said.
"I’m now doing an NVQ [National Vocational Qualification] in logistics and working towards a health and safety apprenticeship.
"I’m really enjoying the job and learning lots of new skills.
"My plans for the future are to become a fully qualified health and safety manager with Morrisroe."
James Wibberley, project manager at Morrisroe, added: "We need people with the right skills to work on this project and it’s great that the West Midlands Combined Authority is funding training to enable us to recruit locally and retain a talented workforce."
West Midlands Combined Authority says that 12 local people are currently gaining new skills with Morrisroe thanks to its construction gateway programme, and more are expected to join.
The Aquatics Centre is set to include an Olympic-sized swimming pool as well as a 25-metre diving pool, a community swimming pool, a dry dive area, activity studios, sports halls and permanent seating for 1,000 people.
There are also plans to create a football pitch and an urban park on the site.
Maria Crompton, deputy leader for Sandwell Council, commented: "The new Aquatics Centre will be a wonderful community facility and the first of its kind in the region in terms of its size and scope.
"I am pleased that Sandwell residents are gaining opportunities to work on constructing this centre of excellence, which will benefit both our community and the wider West Midlands."
Following the Games, which are scheduled to take place from July 28 to August 8 in 2022, the centre is set to become a leisure facility for public use, run by Sandwell Leisure Trust.