2019 has been a milestone year for us.
We kicked off the year by handing over the first homes at our Carr Lodge development in Doncaster, delivering our largest project to date in partnership with Keepmoat Homes and Places for People.
In May, we signed an historic partnership also with Places for People, one of the UK’s largest placemaking organisations, in what is the sector’s largest ever deal. The new strategic partnership will see 750 of our precision-engineered homes delivered up and down the country, helping to house families currently sat on council waiting lists.
This deal announced what has been called construction’s “Uber moment” – in reference to the ride-hailing app’s impact on the taxi market, modernising an age-old industry and helping to speed up delivery, cutting cost and giving our customers unrivalled choice and quality. Our deal with Places for People has boosted our production capacity, providing us with a consistent order pipeline and signalled an enormous vote of confidence in the future of modular housing.
Four months down the line, in September, we announced the launch of the UK’s first modular housing academy. The ilke Academy is committed to hiring people from all walks of life, including school-leavers, military veterans, ex-offenders and women – all groups currently underrepresented in the construction and manufacturing industries.
Based next to our factory in Knaresborough, the ilke Academy will enable new recruits and existing staff to learn a range of vital new skills including engineering, manufacturing and design. Through our Academy, we want to train people typically viewed as unskilled and offer opportunities to those have been unemployed or retired, while also supporting the local economy. Creating new local jobs remains one of our top priorities, as Yorkshire has one of the UK’s highest unemployment rates, standing at 5 percent against the 3.8 percent average, according to the ONS. The launch of the ilke Academy has helped us rapidly grow our now 650-strong team, 80 percent of which are from Yorkshire.
In the same month, we also launched our ‘I Can Do Anything’ initiative with a local school in Leeds. As part of the scheme, we partnered with Rugby World Cup winner Jason Robinson to inspire the fantastic pupils of Queensway Primary School to engage with STEM subjects and the housebuilding industry, while also playing sports with coaching led by the former international full back.
The initiative was very much about teaching children to believe in themselves and that they can achieve greatness in whatever path they choose to take. By engaging with children at such a young age, we hope to tackle misconceptions around careers in construction and manufacturing. With too many young people turning their backs on construction, we believe that the best way to inspire the next generation is by showing how exciting manufacturing and building can be.
As we entered the final two months of what has been an incredible year for us, we were also delighted to announce that we had agreed a major investment from Homes England, which will be used to speed up our delivery and considerably increase our capacity, meaning we’ll see up to 5,000 new green homes rolling off our production line a year within the next five years.
The deal marked the first time the government has ever directly invested in a factory and was announced shortly after housing minister Esther McVey MP announced plans to create a ‘Construction Corridor’ in the north of England, demonstrating how we are leading from the front in trying to push for a northern manufacturing renaissance. Our new partnership with the government’s national housing agency is testament to the dynamic approach they are taking to address structural issues within our housebuilding and construction industries.
We want to continue driving efficiency, quality and sustainability within the housebuilding industry and we see this deal as a fantastic signal to others wishing to do the same. To do so, we brought in some new faces and created the ilke Developments team. Matthew Bench also joined the company in October, as the Group Executive Director of Growth and Partnerships. Matthew’s arrival will help propel us forward, bringing more partnerships, more sites, and more homes.
With the year drawing to a close and the Christmas break giving us a chance to reflect on what has been a monumental year, we’d like to thank all our team, partners, and members of the local community for making 2019 a year we’ll never forget.