A family building firm is bucking the economic trend by creating new jobs and adding a major boost to its fortunes.

Beard, based at Cumnor Hill, Oxford, is on target to generate an annual turnover of £51m this year, a 25 per cent rise on 2007.

And the firm has also created 18 jobs in Oxford since February with a further seven at its Swindon base, taking its total workforce to 175.

Managing director Mark Beard puts the company's success down to its concentration in the "more recession-proof" school and university sector, steering away from housing and more exposed commercial property development.

He said: "House building is in turmoil but building contracting is standing up reasonably well.

"We still have a good order book which is pleasing and we have positioned ourselves to put customer priorities at the centre of what we do." Beard's work has ranged from major construction projects such as Magdalen College School, Oxford, multi-year contracts with organisations including Thames Valley Police and repair and maintenance contracts for The Sheldonian Theatre and The Radcliffe Camera.

A 16-month sports complex for Abingdon School has been another successful contract, while the firm recently won a £2m deal to refurbish industrial units at Milton Park. Mr Beard added other reasons for the upswing in business included investment in training, apprenticeships and IT.

A total of 21 employees are in trainee or apprenticeship programmes, more than 12 per cent of the workforce.

However, he agreed conditions were becoming tougher which will provide a "challenge for all of us."