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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. 

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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