It’s no secret that the U.K. construction industry is struggling. A government-sponsored review entreated the industry to “modernize or die”—citing labor shortages and inefficient building methods as leading to a large deficit of new homes.
But U.K. developer Osco Homes is taking a novel approach to those two key challenges. Six months ago, the company began hiring prisoners to build prefab houses at a factory within Her Majesty’s Prison Hindley in Greater Manchester. A pilot team of 10 prisoners in the final year of their sentence were given special training on how to build external walls, floors, and ceiling panels of modular homes in addition to plastering, joinery, kitchen installation, and bathroom fitting.
The team is currently working on building eight bungalows for a project in West Yorkshire at a rate of two homes a week. Over the next three years, Osco aims to scale up the operation to build 1,000 houses annually.
Lest you worry that the prisoners are being taken advantage of, know that they each receive a salary (more than typical prison pay), which is held in trust for them until their sentence is served. And, when released, they will have guaranteed full-time jobs at Osco with a salary of £19,000 (about $23,300) a year. In fact, four of the original 10 prisoners have already been released and are working on-site in West Yorkshire.
“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,” Mike Brogan, chief executive of Osco’s parent organization Procure Plus, tells Construction Manager Magazine. “With the factory we’re providing this two-fold service.”
Read the story of Mark, one of the first graduates of the program, here.