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Attracting tomorrow’s leaders today

If you walked into any school, college or university across the country today and asked for a show of hands, how many do you think would say they want a career in housing?

Our sector offers a rewarding, exciting journey but requires a diverse pool of talent, skills and experience. To secure the future of our sector and ensure we remain a key partner for any government, there are three simple things we can do to attract tomorrow’s talent today.

Change perceptions: Do our young leaders of tomorrow truly know the extent of what we do and the variety of career options available? We’re no longer just housing officers or rent collectors.  The modern housing association is more flexible housing provider than traditional landlord, with many offering not only homes for affordable rent but also for sale. Today’s housing associations are  complex social businesses requiring professional expertise in financial management, investments, public relations and communications, marketing, asset management, analytics, house building, land acquisition, contract management and planning to name but a few.

How many organisations can offer graduate and apprenticeship placements in more than 20 departments bursting with skills and expertise? We should be proud of our heritage and our achievements and ensure everyone beyond the sector’s bubble knows of us.

Over the next five years we aim to build more than 250,000 homes as a sector with a housing offer for everyone. As housing associations we have a unique USP – we are not-for-profit organisations but we operate commercially and have a social purpose. How many of our competitors looking to recruit new waves of future talent can say that?

Promote our purpose: A cultural shift is happening within the graduate and apprentice community. More and more of them want to work for businesses with a strong social purpose. Beyond salary and benefits, our future leaders are looking for careers where they can make a real difference – where better than the housing sector? We should be lining ourselves up next to our commercial peers as a future employer of choice, shouting loud and proud about the work we do and the careers we offer.

In recent years the National Housing Federation has done a fantastic job in helping the sector tell its story, promoting the vast and transformative work we do. We need to sell ourselves as businesses and the go-to employer of choice for young professionals. Over the course of the last parliament, almost one in three of all new homes built were affordable homes delivered by housing associations. We can attract and retain talent in the sector by telling our story as wide and far as possible.

Provide opportunity: Earlier this year we launched the ‘Build Your Career’ programme at Orbit, inviting graduates and apprentices to join the company on a two year contract working across a number of departments.

During their placement, both graduates and apprentices are assigned mentors in the business, shadow various members of the leadership team, meet with customers and visit our developments.

We also encourage and provide opportunities for them to attend key conferences and events throughout the year to hear directly from inspiring leaders and get involved in key debates within the sector. Opportunities post-placement are plentiful for people with great ideas and enthusiasm. We can learn from their fresh perspective as we look to transform and modernise our services.

Housing shouldn’t be a career you stumble upon as we often hear people have, it should be a career of choice. We are a sector built to deliver, built to stay and built to last. Why wouldn’t you want to work in housing?

Craig Wilcockson, executive director of people, Orbit

Published in 24Housing, February 2018