In a housing landscape that is more challenging than ever, bringing talent into our sector has never been more important, and it is entirely in our hands.
There are two major considerations here; how do we bring through the next generation of housing leaders, and how do we ensure new talent see housing as a great career choice?
There’s certainly no shortage of young people working in housing. So why is our sector’s leadership so unrepresentative of the overall demographic of housing professionals?
In 2014, we set up a presidential commission to promote diversity in leadership. Our then president, Steve Stride, rightly noted that the diversity of housing’s workforce was not represented in its leadership, which remained, to quote Steve “too pale, too male and too stale”.
In the years since, the sector has made progress, but we still have a very long way to go.
A significant part of the challenge is how we recruit, invest in and retain talented young people, and we all have a part to play.
The organisations that have really bought into training and apprenticeships have made it part of the fibre of their work. They find ways to reach young people in their communities; they form great partnerships with other organisations in those communities and they deliver training and employment opportunities to help people thrive. In return, they discover people who become valued and passionate members of their organisation.
The recent changes to apprenticeships provide renewed energy in our efforts to equip young people with the skills needed to thrive in our sector. And we’re working closely with organisations to support professional development.
But there’s a bigger issue here – we have to tell a much better story about our sector.
As housing professionals, we’d sum up our sector using words like – homes, communities, people, futures. But what would the average person say? Bricks, cranes, mortgages perhaps?
It’s exactly this perception that we need to work on if we’re going to attract new people into housing.
Recent surveys of millennials have found many are looking for a job that makes a difference. We’re missing a trick in getting across just how much a career in housing allows you to do this.
And when you consider the biggest challenges facing our nation, what better opportunity could there be to make a difference than to work in housing?
We also need to help our people see the difference they make and understand just how integral their work is, so they become our ambassadors.
And crucially we must tell compelling and clear stories about the great work our people do. We must shout about it in our schools, colleges and universities. We must engage with careers fairs and talk about our work in communities. We must be our sector’s biggest advocates.
That’s how we’ll show people that they can make a difference by choosing a career in housing And it’s how we’ll attract and keep the fresh talent we so desperately need to meet the many challenges ahead.
The phrase ‘more than bricks and mortar’ is overused, but if ever there was an example of how housing organisations can achieve this, it’s in giving people the skills they need to succeed.
The question isn’t why should housing organisations do this, it’s why wouldn’t they.