Promoting housing careers beyond the sector’s ‘echo chamber’

Published on: 5 Mar 2018

As CIH Careers Week begins, Adam Clark says we all have a role to play in making a career in housing appealing

CIH Futures Team

Let’s start with a question which I’m sure will seldom have been asked before. Does the housing sector have ‘secs’ appeal?

That is not a typo and is a genuine, if playful, question.

When people think about potential career avenues and aspirational sectors to satisfy their goals and ambitions, does the housing sector have appeal?

I wrote a blog in August 2017 which, happily, prompted plenty of conversations with people about our pathways into housing.

The article challenged housing professionals to dump the phrase “I fell into housing” from their lexicon.

My central argument for this being that it was a clumsy and unconstructive way of describing how we arrived in a sector many of us love working in.

Effectively, it sells short an opportunity to start and build our sector’s appeal

It is clear, though, that housing is not alone in asking itself how to attract and retain the most talented and inspiring individuals.

Co-ordinating the Chartered Institute of Housing’s CIH Careers Week – which launched to coincide with National Careers Week – I’ve benefited from engaging with people outside of our sector who recognise and share the challenges we face and of course, like all the best problems, they agree it’s not a simple one to unravel.

In thinking about where to start, it’s easy to rapidly be lost in a labyrinth of questions. Where does the responsibility sit for ‘marketing’ the sector?

I remember feeling inspired watching the National Housing Federation’s Owning our Future video and thinking, “this is gold”.

How can our professional and trade bodies collaborate on a unified presentation of the value of housing careers?

Where should they present this?

How are landlords positively selling themselves locally? And what messages are housing professionals sharing with their mates about the work they do?

We’ve all got a role to play and there’s strength in numbers.

While the selling points of careers in housing probably can’t be listed as ‘unique’, there are considerable selling points which are appealing to millennials and Generation Z.

The fact that our organisations are rooted in social purpose and that we can deliver demonstrable positive impact unquestionably carries high ‘secs appeal’.

We know these factors hold idealistic value to people planning their prospective careers.

But faced with a stifled and fragmented employment market, the reality is that people care less about ideals and more about simply being given an opportunity to shine. So where are our open doors? The Guardian reported recently that 50% of graduates are working in a “non-graduate role”.

Given that universities have set employability targets to achieve, surely here is a quick and easy opportunity on which the sector could capitalise?

During CIH Careers Week we will hear stories of some of the great work already established to improve access to rewarding employment in the sector.

We will feature graduates benefiting through opportunities with the GEM Programme and Charityworks.

We will hear about the ‘Bright Futures Programme’, which Flagship Group established to blend hands-on experience, a degree, a salary, and a permanent job.

Outside the sector there’s brilliant work going on by organisations like Access Generation, a community investment company seeking to empower businesses to employ younger generations.

As passionate advocates for the sector, CIH Futures decided we have to play our part in improving our ‘secs appeal’.

Careers Week is the start of that journey.

Our primary objective is to cement Careers Week in the housing calendar and kick-start a meaningful dialogue about housing careers.

In the years ahead we want to grapple with the fundamental challenge of reaching beyond the ‘housing echo chamber’ and into the space where housing careers are unheard of.

Further, we want to influence cohesion around the building and marketing of our sector’s appeal.

Our environmental complexities can be viewed positively as an exciting opportunity to test our own abilities.

CIH Futures is committed to making sure the sector is seen as an exciting place to apply knowledge, skill and ambition – and making people aware that there’s never been a better time to join us.

We are determined to support the CIH in building our professional and sector appeal, and you have a role to play, too. It’s time to make housing a career of choice.

Adam Clark, assistant housing director, Broadland Housing Group; and board member, CIH Futures