My learning story: Rose Andrew
'I took a module in housing as part of my degree and I was hooked': Rose Andrew, who works for Wheatley Group as part of the GEM (Graduate Employment Mentoring) programme, shares what inspired her to take the first steps in her career in housing.
I was still at university when I realised that I wanted to work in housing. As part of my degree in Politics and Public Policy, I took a module in housing and I was hooked. I started volunteering with Shelter Scotland during my final year at university, and for me that consolidated my decision: I wanted a career in housing.
When I saw the advert for the GEM programme with the Wheatley Group, I thought it was the dream job – a chance to get some fantastic exposure to the sector and take part in an exciting programme with other graduates from across the UK.
Since joining Wheatley I’ve been working with the team at Loretto Housing, who are showing me the ropes about what working in housing is really like. So far, it’s been an excellent way to start my career in housing and I’m getting to lead on lots of different projects like a staff training schedule and exploring community engagement.
Just one week into my new job, I was offered the opportunity to attend the GEM exchange in Amsterdam after a last-minute cancellation. I was thrilled to have the chance to learn about social housing in the Netherlands, but I was also a little nervous about what I’d have to bring to the table being so new to the job!
The experience was brilliant, and it was fascinating to understand how the Dutch housing association approached problems with a different perspective. The sustainability strategy was particularly interesting to me, as tenants were provided with information around how energy efficient their properties were and could apply via a webpage to switch to some more environmentally friendly options. It was a great networking opportunity for me to meet former GEMs and build lasting links with our Dutch colleagues. Any nerves I had were quickly forgotten!
In January, I organised one of the GEMShacks – that’s what we call our two-day learning events. The theme was social regeneration, and I got to show off some of the fantastic work that Wheatley does to make homes and lives better. We took a bus tour out to our award-winning development in Sighthill so that the GEMs could see the reality of the work Wheatley is doing to regenerate communities.
At the end of the GEMShack, GEMs were issued with a challenge to create and pitch their own proposals which would enable social regeneration. I decided to use a creative thinking exercise which I had learned in Amsterdam to help the GEMs think outside the box and create some truly innovative ideas. The winning idea was a game which customers could play to design their ideal homes and neighbourhoods, which housing associations could use to inform their design decisions.
Next up for me, I’ll be moving to our customer service department for my second placement to learn about our customer journeys and how the digital self-service tools can benefit our customers. I’m really looking forward to broadening my knowledge of the organisation even further, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for the GEMs when we visit Belfast later this year to learn about the Northern Irish Housing Executive. It’s been a flying start to a career in housing and I can’t wait to see what’s next!