Northumberland College has established a training partnership with ORCA LGS Solutions, an innovative design, manufacturing and training company that employs modern methods of construction to support government to increase housing supply both regionally and throughout the UK.
According to the Housing White Paper published by the Department for Communities and Local Government in February, which sets out the government's plans to reform the housing market and boost the supply of new homes in England, the UK requires a million new homes by 2021.
The Farmer Report, commissioned by the Construction Leadership Council to identify actions to reduce the housing industry's structural vulnerability to skills shortages, identified that the current government target cannot be achieved, unless outputs are dramatically increased.
ORCA aims to deliver 10,000 units of affordable housing within five years, using off-site mobile manufacturing that will employ and train local labour, utilising Light Gauge Steel (LGS), which results in over 50% faster construction than traditional methods.
The College and ORCA have partnered to support a UK government mandate to reduce the vulnerability of the skills shortage and increase housing supply using off site methods of construction.
Around 85% of UK houses employ traditional methods of masonry and timber, while offsite manufactured houses account for around 15%, light gauge steel and other offsite methods have huge potential for growth in the future.
ORCA entered the UK market in 2012 and has delivered over 70 projects utilising light gauge steel.
Dik Barton, Chief Operations Officer at ORCA, said: "The UK housing crisis is compounded by a skills shortage for traditional methods. With our method, a 100 m2, which is the average UK house size, can be manufactured and assembled in eight hours and an unskilled person can be trained to assemble and install within four to eight weeks"
ORCA held an awareness session at Northumberland College on 28 June, the College then supported the organisation through an interview process, following which, successful candidates undertook the first phase of a training programme that saw them complete a two- week orientation course at the College.
Jill Robinson, Contracts and Employability Manager at Northumberland College, said: "Following initial training, ORCA has accepted 12 talented candidates. Trainees are now commencing the ORCA training programme enabling local unemployed people to achieve a new skill set to build houses".
Dik adds: "ORCA is delighted to be working with Northumberland College, a thoroughly professional institution, who have been intimately involved in the recruitment, selection and training process. Trainees are currently undergoing a structured 10 week training programme establishing an ongoing model aspiring to LGS accreditation and certification."
Northumberland College has invested over £10m at its campuses in recent years where facilities include a dedicated Construction Academy. In addition to this a brand-new £2.5m centre for science, engineering and digital technologies will open in September.
The College's Business Training Solutions Team offer a full range of support to around 1,000 businesses across the region including employability programmes that optimise the recruitment process by ensuring candidates are matched to a particular sector with the right attitude and commitment to enhance the workforce.
John Paul Fraser, Managing Director of ORCA, said: "This is an exciting time for ORCA and the college working in partnership to create jobs locally and increase housing supply in the UK. We want Northumberland to become ORCA's centre of excellence for training, delivering 10,000 units per year nationally and creating over 1,200 jobs."
Chris Brown, aged 30, from Blyth said: "Being given the opportunity to undertake training that will lead to employment with such a forward thinking organisation is great and I'm really looking forward to the future."