'Housing should be seen as a career of choice and it starts with us.'
It's time for housing to be seen as a career of choice and not something people fall into, and housing professionals have a big part to play in changing the narrative, says Adam Clark, from CIH's member of the future advisory group.
I have two challenges for you. First of all tell me how often you’ve spotted a trip hazard image on a housing recruitment website or application form. None? Me neither but as a sector that prides itself on being able to identify and manage risk, too many of us talk about how we ‘fell into housing’.
This might sound daft but this is the narrative lots of us choose to share about how we stumbled upon our richly rewarding careers. To those who don’t know our sector and the valuable and rewarding work we do, we risk weakening our reputation and appeal by using such clumsy descriptors of how we arrived here. Personally, I’m bored of hearing about people falling into housing, it’s time to make housing a genuine career of choice.
My journey is not unique. I studied public service management at university because I knew I wanted to make a difference to my community, I cared about people, service and society. Despite choosing a degree programme I thought would lead me toward my goals, I finished no wiser about social housing and how it could satisfy my aspirations. After Uni. I stumbled around for a couple of years doing relatively meaningless work before, you guessed it…
How do we prevent more people leaving study without direction? In today’s crowded jobs market we owe it to the sector and our tenants to sharpen up and improve our positioning of the sector to those fresh young folk who are hungry to make an impact.
Organisational life is changing and it’s creating some seriously exciting places to work for those open to change. Transparency, flattening structures, greater flexibility and employees positively engaged with the company are notable benefits. Although many examples shared on social media come from young enterprising companies, Spotify being a great example, housing isn’t excluded from this. Several housing organisations are increasingly adept at selling themselves and their transformative cultures, offering striking appeal to generation Y and Z who desire pairing forward thinking work environments with deeply rewarding and impactful work. This is great news for the sector but still doesn’t do anything to change the narrative of the ‘fall’ into housing.
I recently heard it said “…children are 27% of the world’s people but 100% of the future” so how are we engaging with the future?
Organisationally, we have some excellent examples, the GEM programme established by iNcommunities and CIH a clear one, with a significant percentage of graduates finding jobs in the sector. To put housing firmly on the career map, organisations need to have clear approaches to talent management, succession planning and routes for progression. These are marketable benefits for the sector.
But we need to do more and that is one of the reasons I am proud to be part of @CIHFutures, working to support the CIH engage young, new members. To propel the sector forward we need to reach beyond housing and begin purposefully attracting talent to join the sector.
We can start by working with careers officers in colleges and universities to share the range of social focused careers available in housing, they need to be clear on our purpose so potential talent can be guided our way. Graduates training in law, accountancy, communications may not necessarily think of us equally, plumbers, builders, electricians gaining valuable skills in colleges need to know about our careers available for them.
Further, we should tell our story to youngsters choosing their subjects at GCSE and A-Level to help them map their futures. Children are placed under considerable pressure to make decisions about their future often without really knowing what they’re aiming for, we can help with that. To be effective all of this requires strategy and coordination however, there is an opportunity for everyone working in housing.
The second of the challenges, is for us as individuals. Can you start to reframe the narrative about how you arrived in housing? So the next time you’re asked the question you can give a more engaging response than “I fell into housing”. Can you go further than that and proactively start conversations with people about how rewarding and satisfying your work is? The change starts with us.
Adam Clark is a member of the CIH member of the future advisory group and senior housing manager at Broadland Housing Group.