Modernise or Die

“At the end of last year the government asked the Construction Leadership Council to identify actions to reduce the industry’s structural vulnerability to skills shortages, taking account of the Council’s wider work including that on business models and offsite housing.”

This is from the foreword of the rather alarmingly entitled publication ‘Modernise or Die’ by Mark Farmer, which predicts a 20-25% reduction in the UK labour force over the next ten years.

However, one procurement company, Procure Plus, has found a novel source of labour with the assistance of inmates at Her Majesty’s Prison Hindley, in Greater Manchester.  In a pilot scheme, ten final year prisoners have been trained as construction workers to build external walls, floors and ceiling panels in modular homes – prefabs.  Learning skills in plastering, joinery, kitchen installation and bathroom fitting, training takes place at the former Manchester College, Novus.

Two modular homes per week are being produced for a project in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, owned by Together Housing Group.  Over the next three years they hope to increase the number of completed houses to 1,000.

In return for their work, the final-year prisoners receive a salary which is held in trust for them until their release.  After that, they will be guaranteed employment at Osco with a salary of approximately £19,000 per annum.  Four of the original ten prisoners are already working on the site in West Yorkshire, which is due for completion in April.

“It’s not just about building homes, but providing training and opportunities to guys who may have taken a wrong turn in life but are keen to change,” said Mike Brogan, chief executive of Procure Plus which launched Osco Homes as a subsidiary aimed at the delivery of affordable houses.

With the backing of the Ministry of Justice, the company is now looking at creating factory learning environments at other prisons.

For property advice in Greater Manchester contact Manchester Chartered Surveyors here.

For property advice in Pontefract contact West Yorkshire Chartered Surveyors here.