Developing the future generation of housing staff
Blog by Liz Bowden, Corporate Services Manager, Cloch Housing Association.
This year, at Cloch, we have been focussing on our developing programme of work to engage with young people and promote social housing as a career path.
Although not a large RSL, with only around 1,400 homes, Cloch took the decision, in 2016, to introduce Modern Apprenticeships to our workforce. Our scheme offers an 18-month contract and two qualifications, the CIH Level 2 and the SVQ in Housing, Level 2. This was a new and exciting extension to Cloch’s work, and bringing in someone younger than the rest of the workforce helped us to freshen our ideas around work and focus staff’s minds on future-proofing the social housing sector.
We are committed to having at least two Modern Apprentices employed at any one time, and our scheme offers a young person the skills and experience and opportunity to get a foothold in social housing. Although we cannot promise a permanent post once the apprenticeship is complete, we work hard to ensure the young person moves to full time-employment, and, to date, we’ve been successful with this.
As well as helping the young person, the Modern Apprentice Scheme can develop new personal skills for our permanent staff. Staff have become mentors and have learnt to adapt their style of management and supervision. Young people can come with their own challenges, and it is about developing a culture in the organisation that embraces these challenges and find solutions, rather than backing off when the going gets tough. Our staff have enjoyed the work, so much so that we are now talking to Scottish Mentoring Network about a training scheme for staff.
And as the culture changed, we were confident enough at the end of 2018 to apply for Investors in Young People. The IIYP award allows organisations to take a critical look at what they have in place to promote, encourage and engage with young people in the workplace and to then learn and develop and grow as a young person organisation. We were delighted to achieve it, and we have used the action plan to progress our work this year.
So much is going on around Scotland to work with young people in schools, and sometimes it is about making the right contacts to then allow you the chance to work in the schools. This is what happened after achieving IIYP. The assessor put us in touch with Inverclyde Council’s programme manager for ‘The Recruit’, a school challenge for fifth and sixth year pupils, based on ‘The Apprentice’ television programme.
By the summer, this year, we had participated in The Recruit challenge, creating a new Modern Apprentice post whilst encouraging our newly appointed reactive repairs contractor, MPS Housing, to offer a four-year trade apprenticeship as part of the challenge.
In the spring of 2019, we engaged with a local secondary school about school placements, not just a one-week place, but a placement for one or two days a week that helps the pupil gain an SCQF Level 5 or 6. Our first pupil starts this week, working in administration and customer service.
We have a Young Person Steering Group made up of a cross section of staff who are also going to be going to work in schools and in the Winter of 2019, we are looking to become involved in an Inverclyde Council pilot scheme ‘The Children’s College’. This is at an early stage, but housing associations can help open doors to education and development for young people and their parents or guardians.
The more we have opened the doors to develop the talents of the young people of Inverclyde, the more encouraged we are that the future of social housing is in good hands. When taking part in The Recruit, the pupils were amazed at the range of skills and areas of expertise that it takes to run a social housing organisation. It also made them start to think about the type of housing they currently live in and what they might want to live in when they finally leave home. When we asked them to design homes for the future, the range of blue-sky ideas had an underlying theme of strong community, low impact on the environment and an embracing of digital technology. And, whilst one idea of a flying house may have been a blue sky idea too far, it demonstrated that there is innovative thinking that should make our communities safe, strong and sustainable for the future.
Our newest ‘recruit’, Dylan Docherty, is due to start his career as a Modern Apprentice with Cloch today, 18September, which coincidentally, and perhaps symbolically, coincides with Scottish Housing Day. It is hoped that by introducing young people to careers in housing and/or understanding the role of housing that RSLs can demonstrate the importance of the sector and housing in general, and the special significance it has in relation to human rights and wellbeing.