The value of housing as a career choice
Should housing professionals stop talking about ‘falling into’ the sector? CIH policy and practice officer Yoric Irving-Clarke reflects on how we can showcase housing as a career of choice.
Adam Clark’s blog on how we engage with younger people makes a good point that we undermine housing as a career choice when we say “oh, I just fell into it!” How many times have we heard speakers at events open with just that kind of comment? I’ve done it myself. I’d make two points about this – firstly if it’s the truth, I don’t think it’s something we should particularly shy away from, and secondly I think the second part to that statement is “look at how many of us choose to stick around!” And that is the emphasis I always try to give.
I recently attended a seminar given by Dr Peter King of De Montfort University where he spoke about his thoughts on “complacency” in housing. And by that he doesn’t mean that we should be aloof or uncaring about housing, but rather that in an ideal world it should be something that happens in the background of our lives. It should be something that just exists permanently behind us, and we should be complacent to the degree that this solidity provides us with the security to pursue everything else we have going on in our lives. Of course, that isn’t the case for many people, but many others are lucky enough not to have to worry about housing.
After reading Adam’s blog I had a chat with CIH head of membership David Pipe about how we can attract more young people in the sector and make housing a career of choice. Peter’s seminar came to mind. If you are lucky enough to be able to be ‘complacent’ about housing, you might not necessarily think about it as a career choice. It means that most people don’t have a formative experience with housing in the way that they do with other public services. We’ve all heard doctors, nurses and others talk about some experience they had as a child that informed their choice to pursue their career. Also, the NHS, fire service and welfare state etc touch most of us at some point in our lives in ways that housing sometimes doesn’t. Indeed when I think about it there are a few people I know who did make a very deliberate decision to work in housing and they are often people who have experienced homelessness or the positive effects of social housing.
Ironically, this also means that the more successful we are at making sure people have good quality, affordable housing; the less successful we might be at making housing a career of choice (if my theory is correct). So I think the challenge we have is to construct a narrative that tells people the positive effects that being well housed has and the value of housing as a career choice – because we only notice our housing when it's bad, never when it does its job well.