Modular housing academy will train next generation of house builders

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Modular homes manufacturer ilke Homes has launched the UK’s first onsite academy to train house builders and engineers to make homes in factories, to help ease the construction skills and housing crisis.

The ilke Academy will hire people from all walks of life, including school-leavers, military veterans and ex-offenders. These groups are under-represented in traditional construction and manufacturing.

The ilke Academy will be based next to the ilke Homes factory in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, which currently has capacity to produce 2,000 homes a year. This will enable new recruits and existing staff to learn a range of vital skills including engineering, plumbing, manufacturing, carpentry and design.

The academy will also support trainees’ professional growth, with a leadership development course in place offering recruits internal progression opportunities and a clear career path in the emerging modular housing industry. The academy will welcome 162 recruits and further the training of current ilke Homes employees, with applications open to 17-year olds through to those extending their career beyond retirement.

The launch of the ilke Academy – the first ever on site academy focusing on homes built in a factory – follows similar measures undertaken by the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who announced the Mayor’s Construction Academy, focusing on traditional construction, in 2018.

Through its academy, ilke Homes says it wants to train people typically viewed as unskilled or unemployable while also supporting the local economy.

Its management team hopes that by setting up networks with a local men’s and a local women’s prison, they can prevent re-offending and promote house building to a new generation of people, while providing stable employment opportunities in an emerging industry.

ilke Homes want to work with careers advisors to help change perceptions and address the considerable lack of young people entering construction.

In June, the business agreed the UK’s largest ever modular housing deal with Places for People for 750 homes. The company is currently working with private housebuilders, housing associations, councils and retirement community developers to supply high quality homes accredited by BOPAS and backed by the NHBC warranty.

Dave Sheridan, Executive Chairman of ilke Homes, said: “We have a responsibility to help people from all backgrounds find employment and for too long, the construction sector has sat on its hands while the skills shortage has hit crisis point.

“Creating local jobs and helping get more women and young people into the sector have to be priorities. The Government has ambitious targets to build new homes and only through investment in factories will this realistically happen. Investment will only flow if the right skills exist – and that’s why we are keen to collaborate with everyone in the industry.

“Offsite manufacturing gives people a genuine, clear career path together with the opportunity to play a part in disrupting UK house building.

“Anyone, be they a school-leaver seeking their first full-time job or a reformed offender, should have the chance to be trained – not least when they can help end the housing crisis by building beautiful, high-quality homes.”

Duncan O’Leary, Chief Executive of the New Futures Network, a specialist part of Her Majesty’s Prison Service, said: “This is a fantastic initiative that will benefit ilke Homes, the individuals involved and the families and communities they are part of.

“Training and work placements in prisons equip offenders with skills they can use to find employment upon release. Having a job helps them get their lives back on track and ultimately keeps the public safe. By offering ex-offenders training relevant to their business, ilke Homes are joining over 300 employers that already benefit from hiring skilled people from prisons.”

Nigel Adams MP, Member of Parliament for Selby and Ainsty, said:”It’s no secret that the construction industry has struggled to cope with the ongoing skills shortage. The launch of the ilke Academy represents a huge step in the right direction in teaching new skills for local people from all walks of life, creating new and exciting jobs, whilst boosting our local economy.

“I am delighted to see that Yorkshire has established itself as a hotbed of housing innovation. This will be vital as we continue to reverse the brain drain that the capital has swallowed up and ensure that we can attract top talent to the region.”

Gill Cronin, Director of Operations at The 5% Club, said: “The ilke Academy is a very welcome step to establishing a factory-focused workforce to build homes of the future.

“Ensuring that people are engaged, trained and educated in modern methods of construction is crucial if this nascent industry is to grow quickly. It’s vital that the private sector takes greater responsibility for equipping future employees with the skills and knowledge needed to create the homes of tomorrow.”

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