05 Mar 2024

Advancing housing practice: Education development paves the way forward in Northern Ireland

In the ever-evolving landscape of housing practice, education stands as the cornerstone of progress. As we navigate through the intricacies of modern housing management, it's imperative to equip ourselves with the necessary skills and knowledge to meet the increasing demands of the field. At the forefront of this endeavour, CIH’s commitment to education development is not just a choice but a necessity, ensuring a robust foundation for the future of housing professionals.

Reflecting on our journey so far, we take pride in the strides we've made in shaping the educational landscape for aspiring housing practitioners. The success of the first cohort of the level three apprenticeship in housing practice at North West Regional College (NWRC) serves as a testament to our dedication to nurturing talent and fostering growth within the industry. As we gear up for the second cohort, we stand firm in our resolve to provide unparalleled learning opportunities for the next generation of housing professionals.

Listening attentively to the needs of our members, we recognise the importance of accessibility in education. That's why we're thrilled to announce the launch of a foundation degree in housing practice at the Northern Regional College, in partnership with Open University. This initiative, subject to validation, will open doors for individuals in Belfast and beyond, offering a comprehensive educational pathway tailored to the demands of the housing sector.

Our commitment to addressing the training needs of our members goes further. Through meticulous planning and collaboration, we've designed a customised training plan for Northern Ireland, crafted to meet the evolving demands of the industry. Spearheaded by our engagement and external affairs manager Julie Steele, and in collaboration with our training manager Louise Smylie, our face-to-face sessions serve as a platform for learning, networking and skill enhancement. Covering a diverse range of topics such as hoarding, conflict resolution, and damp and mould, these sessions have garnered overwhelming interest.

One highlight for me was the opportunity to design and deliver the introduction to social housing training, spending the day with housing leaders of the future. Together with Loma Wilson from Radius Housing and Greg Bell from Clanmil Housing as guest speakers, we delved into the intricacies of building communities and understanding housing finance, enriching the learning experience for all participants.

As we embark on this journey of education development, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to all those who have contributed to these endeavours. From the collaborative efforts of Caroline McKeever of NWRC and Karen McCambridge of NRC, to the unwavering support of our members, everyone has played a pivotal role in shaping the future of housing education in Northern Ireland.

In addition to the intrinsic value of developing professionals' knowledge and skills, there's also a regulatory imperative driving our education initiatives forward. The social housing regulator in Northern Ireland has underscored the significance of workforce development by mandating housing associations to demonstrate concrete plans for enhancing the skills, knowledge and competency of their workforce. Education plays a pivotal role in fulfilling this requirement, and our expanded suite of educational offerings will enable associations to showcase their commitment to meeting regulatory standards.

Moreover, discussions around potentially further mandating professionalism within the sector have been initiated, with the regulator forwarding considerations to the Department for Communities housing policy division. This aligns with the trend observed in England, where qualifications are in the process of becoming mandatory, signalling a shift towards more regulated and professionalised housing management. By proactively investing in education and skill development, we not only empower individuals but also contribute to a culture of excellence and accountability within the industry.

Looking ahead, we remain steadfast in our commitment to advancing housing practice through education. With the launch of new apprenticeships and educational pathways, we stand poised to cultivate a new generation of housing professionals equipped with the skills, knowledge, and passion to drive positive change in the industry.

Together, let’s embrace the transformative power of education and pave the way forward for a brighter, more sustainable future in housing practice.

Written by

Justin Cartwright CIHCM, national director Northern Ireland