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SFHA Innovation & Future Thinking Programme

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SFHA’s Innovation and Future Thinking programme brings our members and other stakeholders together to collaboratively develop new ideas and solutions for the future.  Our purpose is a collective ambition to broaden and strengthen the sector’s contribution to social justice and inclusive growth. 

The programme aims to be: 

  • Inspirational – incorporating international and ‘out of sector’ inputs to promote radical thinking and fresh approaches 

  • Customer focused – using design-led approaches which put people at the centre 

  • Evidence-led – building ideas and solutions based on robust research and insight 

  • Sustainable – developing capacity for the housing sector to continue to innovate on an on-going basis. 

We have three key streams of work within the programme:   

Home of the Future 

Innovation in design, construction and maintenance will deliver improved quality and services andimportantly maintain affordable rents. The home of the future will be designed around the individual understanding the needs and desires and implement into development and property services. 

Our Aim: To influence the housing sector to future proof homes by working with the construction sector and its customers, hence reducing isolation, boosting  connectivity, centralising adaptations,ensuring “a place for everyone” and providing great homes for all.  

Service Transformation 

Digital technology and culture improvement will aid how housing associations are transforming andevolving.  Encouraging staff development to construct a more agile and dynamic team, be more responsive to customers' needs can strengthen user experience.  Digital change will transform the landscape of communication, operations and data. 

Our Aim: To demonstrate that understanding how customers and users experience services is key too creating and delivering best practice through involving residents in the service design and decision-making process.   Support and motivate organisations transforming services to digital approaches to ensure value, efficiency and effectiveness.  

Tackling Poverty and Demonstrating Impact 

Housing associations strive to support the lives of, and where needed build resilience in, residents and the communities that they serve.  We, as a sector, can join forces to provide the protection, careand opportunity to evade the hardship faced by many.  

Our Aim:  To showcase and provide tools and resources to measure the social housing sectorsimpact and use this to influence future plans and business strategies, and to secure new or continued funding and investment. . Work with the sector to improve services to enable increasedphysical, mental and financial wellbeing in communities 


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Starting your career in social housing

Gemma Connell, Innovation and Future Thinking Programme Co-ordinator, has written a blog to mark Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2021 about how she started her career in the social housing sector. 

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tags : Change / Inspire / Young people / Innovation and future thinking

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It’s Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2021, and, as Skills Development Scotland states, this is the time to highlight and share the value that apprenticeships can bring to individuals, employers, and the economy. As the saying goes, “The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow”, and employers should encourage and recognise the benefits of diversifying their workforce and supporting individuals to begin their careers.  

I started my Modern Apprenticeship in 2017 through Skills Development Scotland in Business and Administration and was employed by a housing association as a finance trainee. My previous experience was in the private sector, and the apprenticeship scheme allowed me to move into the social housing sector and begin my career. Working in the housing sector was always a passion of mine; I wanted to make an impact and gain purpose from my working day. Being part of an organisation that offered a range of services and support to its local community was key to my career choice.  

The benefit of the apprenticeship was that it allowed me to start my career in a different sector as well as build on my skills and knowledge simultaneously. With the support of both my employer and assessor in Skills Development Scotland, there was no pressure, just reassurance, and this demonstrated that my employer was committed to investing in young people.  

There is great opportunity in the social housing sector, as we plan for the future, to recognise skill gaps and offer on the job training, and recognised qualifications. In return, organisations will have a new member of staff, an asset to their teams, who will understand the role of the social housing sector and its values. RSLs should welcome and champion the different routes into housing as a career and the apprenticeship scheme provides a variety of ways for individuals at different levels to access employment.  

I chatted to a few apprentices from SFHA associate, SPA, and this is what they had to say about their experience: 

“After completing my English degree, I had a lot of theoretical knowledge but less practical skills. I always knew I wanted a career in marketing, and so I was so excited to be hired as a marketing apprentice at SPA. I have managed to bring together my skills from my degree as well as develop practical skills from my time in the [virtual] office. As part of my apprenticeship, I am also working towards a qualification in digital marketing which will allow me to progress in my career with SPA. I'd encourage anyone thinking about applying for an apprenticeship to do so!” – Abi 

“I started my apprenticeship about 18 months ago and have loved it ever since. I found out about the graduate apprenticeship scheme, so I could gain experience and a degree at the same time.  

 I’ve had a great time with SPA and have taken on more responsibilities and progressed within my role as time as gone on. I think this has been vital as I’ve been able to take things I learn in the office into the classroom, and I can also take classroom lessons to gain a better understanding in the office. I’ve definitely learned a lot that I couldn’t have if I attended university full-time. 

“I think this will benefit me in the future as I’ll not only have the theory from class, but I’ll also have experience within the company, again something I wouldn’t have as a full-time student. I think this also benefits the company as after my apprenticeship is finished, they’ll have a qualified member of the team who is experienced and is able to continue to learn and progress at the company.” – Reiss 

“When it comes to leaving school, a lot of people think university is the only option. However, many do not realise that apprenticeships can be a lot more valuable. Not only are you further improving your education, you are also gaining valuable life experience and a lot of employers will look for this rather than just a degree. Essentially, you can ‘earn while you learn’. 

“SPA have not only given me the opportunity of learning on the job, they are furthering my education by supporting me through my CIPS exams. This will greatly help me improve my knowledge and understanding of procurement to enhance my future career with SPA. 

“If someone is thinking about doing an apprenticeship, I would encourage them to go for it 100%. The opportunities and experiences available through apprenticeships are truly invaluable.” – Katyln 


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