22 Sep 2021

How GHA and Wheatley are increasing opportunities for young people

Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) is honoured to sponsor the ‘Bob Allan - Young Achiever in Housing’ award as part of this year’s CIH Scotland Housing Awards.

Bob Allan was GHA’s first chief executive, and the man behind Europe’s biggest housing transfer in 2002, when 80,000 Glasgow City Council homes were transferred to the newly-formed GHA. His legacy lives on not only in the £1.5bn spent on improvements to homes in Glasgow, but the opportunities GHA and Wheatley offer young people.

Every organisation needs new blood, new ways of thinking to challenge received wisdom. At Wheatley, the modern apprenticeship programme is an important way of doing that. No fewer than 500 young people have benefited from the programme since it launched in 2009. It offers young people, many from our communities, a first step on the career ladder in housing, care, business administration and environmental services. They are paid a real salary, and get benefits including travel expenses, 28 days’ holiday and discounts on gym membership and driving lessons.

As Scotland’s biggest housing, care and property-management group, there are so many options for a fulfilling career within Wheatley – and clear scope for young people to develop their skills in a range of business areas. Robert McCluskey, 21, from Glasgow, joined GHA as an environmental apprentice in 2018 before securing a full-time post. He said:

“The apprenticeship is a brilliant opportunity. There are great opportunities for career progression and my confidence has really grown.”

In fact, many of Wheatley’s senior leaders started their careers as apprentices, and know for themselves how much of a difference that opportunity made to their own lives. The group’s ignite graduate programme is another way Wheatley is ensuring the flow of fresh talent into the organisation. The programme, launched in 2019, has seen 33 university leavers get on-the-job training, opportunities for further study, qualifications and the mentoring support they need to become future leaders in housing.

Wheatley’s award-winning academy ensures that new recruits – both apprentices and graduates – have the opportunity to develop their skills and continually improve their learning. The organisation's size and scale means it can attract the depth and quality of talent it needs – which gives Wheatley some outstanding leadership potential across the organisation. Their bursary programme also helps young people fulfil their dreams of studying at college and university – and progress into the career of their choice.

The group’s charitable trust, Wheatley Foundation, has awarded 230 education bursaries, worth up to £1500 for full-time students and £750 for part-time studies, since 2017.

The culture and personal development framework we have at Wheatley helps identify and nurture young people capable of protecting our legacy as an organisation that continually breaks new ground and sets ever-higher standards for the quality of its homes and services. It’s been inspiring for me to see young people grab the chance to take their first step with us and really build a career.

I have watched many of these young people grow into their jobs within GHA and Wheatley and help us find creative solutions to the delivery of services. Many of them, I am sure, will go on to make meaningful contributions in leadership roles within GHA, the group, and across the sector.

One of the things I often hear from young people is they want a career that will make a real difference to people’s lives. The housing sector is the place for them to do that.

I feel sure Bob Allan would be proud.

Written by Jehan Weerasinghe

Jehan Weerasinghe is Managing Director of Glasgow Housing Association (GHA), part of Wheatley, Scotland’s leading housing, care and property-management group.