The scheme, which is being delivered by three partners – leading developer Lovell, affordable housing provider, Stonewater, and veterans’ charity Alabaré, and supported by Wiltshire Council – has recruited veterans as part of its workforce to provide the opportunity to develop new career skills, as well as secure a new affordable home.
The veterans, each of whom have faced being homeless since leaving the Armed Forces are supported by Alabaré, and receive mentoring, training on site and upskilling as part of the programme, each playing an integral role in the construction of the development. Most hope to secure permanent employment in the industry going forward.
During his visit, Mr Mercer praised the scheme for its innovative approach to recruiting veterans into the construction industry. He highlighted the valuable skills and experience that veterans can bring to the industry, and emphasised the importance of supporting veterans in their transition to civilian life.
Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Johnny Mercer said: "Veterans leave their time in service with invaluable skills that can't be gained elsewhere, so it's great to see the construction industry setting ex-military personnel up for success as they move into civilian life.
"I was impressed with the partnership between industry and charities, which really shows how collaboration can help get veterans into employment."
The project has three veterans currently working on site, including Kevin Chapman, an RAF veteran, who found himself homeless after a relationship breakdown. Kevin completed the Building Heroes course and has been working on site since it started in May 2022. He is due to move into one of the homes in August 2023.
Ken Hames, Chief Operating Officer at Alabaré Veterans Community Build said: “We welcome Mr Mercer’s visit today and the opportunity to discuss how the Government and organisations such as ours can work together to ensure that programmes such as Veterans Community Build are supporting veterans into new careers.
“At Alabaré we see that, whilst most veterans make the transition to their civilian lives successfully, there are a significant minority who struggle, facing difficulties including unemployment and in some cases homelessness. We recognise the huge potential for veterans who are keen to gain new skills, and for industry where recruitment is a huge challenge.
“Working with other charities such as Building Heroes, and alongside partners like Lovell and Stonewater, we can end homelessness for our veterans, and we welcome the Government’s commitment on this.”
Matthew Crucefix, Director of Development (South & West) at Stonewater said: “Being able to showcase the Drummond Park scheme to Mr Mercer offered us a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate the valuable work being done on sites like this.
“The veterans involved on site are all gaining valuable experience and skills that will help tackle the gap in the construction industry, while the site as a whole will continue to offer much needed housing to the area, building vital community links.”
James Duffett, regional managing director at Lovell, said: “We are very proud of the Veteran Build Experience at Drummond Park and to have given Mr Mercer a tour of the site and introduced him to some of the veterans who are working hard to deliver the homes.
“This is a wonderful scheme that has enabled ex-military personnel to explore a new career path, gives back to the local community and allows us to diversify the workforce. The veterans who are taking part bring new sets of skills into the construction industry, and there is a lot that our site team at Lovell have learnt from them.”
Drummond Park has been delivered by Lovell in partnership with Homes England, and consists of 412 homes, including a collection of 309 two, three and four-bedroom open market Lovell homes and 103 affordable homes – 40 per cent shared ownership and 60 per cent affordable rent – for Stonewater.