Points West: My time as a housing apprentice
CIH South West’s youngest board member Jordan McKenna shares his experience starting out as a housing apprentice at Cirencester Housing
I finished my A-Levels the year after university tuition fees were increased, fresh-faced and uncertain I faced a life changing decision which had the potential to dictate which career path I went down. With many of my friends gearing up to go to university, I decided to take the bold leap into the unknown and take up an alternative to higher education in order to avoid the hefty costs and uncertain job prospects of university.
After a short time looking at the various opportunities around I decided to apply for the housing apprentice role at one of my local housing providers, Cirencester Housing. The job role looked very varied; there was plenty of opportunity to work with people and to deal with potentially difficult situations. This immediately sparked my interest as a person who prides himself on his problem solving and customer service skills. The promise of further development and training after the apprenticeship was a massive draw, I was immediately impressed by the values the organisation held and its approach to helping people, by providing a solid home for them to live in.
Within the first few weeks I was introduced to the various aspects of housing management and very quickly became very passionate about the work, as I saw first-hand the impact that good housing can have on a person’s life.
I spent one day a week at my local college with other local apprentices from a wide range of businesses. This was very important as it allowed me to learn many of the ins and outs of business and spend time with other people in the same situation as me.
With a sector where the majority of workers fall into the 45-54 age bracket and 64 percent of staff are over the age of 35, I believe it is important that we tap into an extremely energetic, creative and innovative resource. Housing associations are quickly realising how apprenticeships can benefit their business. Since 2011 they have provided a massive 7,300 apprenticeships.
Housing is always changing; younger people can bring an organisation huge benefit, a new perspective and attitude and help to work with the challenges that we face. I have been extremely lucky to have worked on a number of projects and get involved with all levels of the business at Cirencester Housing, having this hands on experience is essential in today’s job market. Not only has this helped me in understanding the issues that face housing, but also how external pressures like the government’s austerity programme has affected the people we house, this has been vital in improving customer service and ensuring we are meeting those needs.
After nine months I completed my apprenticeship and took up the newly created position of housing officer. As well as the opportunity to continue my work with Cirencester Housing they also offered to sponsor my studies with the Chartered Institute of Housing, which has been essential in developing my own approach and allowed me to become a better housing professional.
In order to promote housing to younger people, and to further develop my housing experience, I joined the CIH South West Regional Board. This is a great platform to work on as it brings together some great talent from across the sector and region.
As part of the work that we are doing to highlight younger people in housing, we have organised an Apprentice of the Year award, which will be a great chance to shine the spotlight on the future workers within housing!
I joined Cirencester Housing a number of years ago and a lot of my friends have since graduated from university, many of them are still searching for a job and are continually being rejected due to a lack of experience in the workplace – this is where the real value of an apprenticeship shows. Being able to work, learn and earn at the same time is something which not many other qualifications can offer and this is why more school and college leavers should consider doing an apprenticeship.