A new cohort of bricklaying apprentices could be the key to building more of the houses needed to help get rough sleepers off the streets, vulnerable people into accommodation and older people into supported housing, a Government minister has said.
The optimism came from housing and homeless minister Heather Wheeler during the unveiling of the “life-changing” new Access Training Construction Academy in Derby.
Mrs Wheeler, South Derbyshire MP, addressed the large volume of housing associations in attendance during a speech at the event.
She said: “You are actually physically building homes, so I can get my rough sleepers off the street, so I can get vulnerable people into sheltered housing, so I can get older people into appropriate homes so they can downsize and then you’ve got more family homes to free up.”
She added that the Government’s previous target of building 250,000 new homes a year has now gone up to 300,000 annually.
“That’s a huge target,” said Mrs Wheeler.
“But what I would hope is that that gives you the confidence to start up your businesses, to invest in this world and to bring these young people on.
“There will be a huge pipeline, that means we will have businesses going forward for a very long time.”
Around 70 people attended the launch of the academy, which has been set up by Access Training, in association with Pride Park-based Hodgkinson Builders and Buildbase, in the wake of the collapse of training firm 3aaa.
They were treated to bricklaying demonstrations and a chance to meet the young apprentices over a glass of fizz.
Access Training is co-owned by Nottingham Community Housing Association and Futures Housing, and Mrs Wheeler urged representatives from the organisations to bid for a chunk of a £50m Homes England fund to build new sheltered accommodation.
In March 2018, Mrs Wheeler told The Guardian newspaper she remained “totally confident” she would not have to act on her pledge to resign should she fail to meet the Conservative manifesto commitment of halving rough sleeping by 2022, and eradicating it by 2027.
An estimated 320,000 people are homeless in the UK, according to research by the Shelter charity.
Mrs Wheeler hailed the new academy as “a superb set-up”.
“I’m really impressed that there will be 60-plus trainees through the year.
“We all know that bricklayers in particular are an ageing population, so it’s very important that we have this pipeline of well-trained keen bricklayers coming through.
“What’s really impressed me today is the partnership between Access Training, Hodgkinson’s and Buildbase.
“It’s a fantastically well-paid job, with excellent prospects, and the link that Access Training have with a number of national housing associations and the supply chain mean that there are work placements and full-time apprenticeships going forward.”
Ian Hodgkinson, director at Hodgkinson’s, said his involvement was a way of “giving something back” as he started out in the same position as the apprentices.
He added: “What the Academy will provide is life-changing opportunities.
“We are taking somebody from school or college or whatever background, diverse areas, and can put somebody in the situation where they are going to be able to earn a living.”
He said that in the skills shortage, there is less than one bricklayer to each house on the Government’s new house building target.
Access Training has supported around 10,000 learners over the last 30 years across the whole of the East Midlands.
Its managing director Corrina Hembury said: “We’re passionate about training the next generation of people who are going to build all these houses for us.”
Mick Mattison, regional sales director of Buildbase, said: “These are our future builders, tradesmen and customers. It’s really important for Buildbase to support this.
“The construction industry is short of skills and this academy is a fantastic way of building on that.”