Catherine’s GEM Journey

I’d just finished my first year at South Liverpool Homes when my director, Julie, sat me down and said, ‘I’d like you to complete the GEM Programme’.

I’d spent the last year since graduating working with the Neighbourhood Services team, learning everything I could about the operational side of the business: tenancy management, engagement, income collection, and project work. I had also spent valued time with our Chief Executive and the Marketing and Communication Team, travelling up and down the country during her premiership as President for the Chartered Institute of Housing, attending conferences and helping to fundraise for Crisis.  I’d loved every second of it and I’d just been promoted to Housing Assistant.

However the thought of the programme concerned me – How much work would be involved? Would it impact my job? What were the people involved going to be like?

I need not have worried. Study trips, or ‘GEM Shacks’, took place once a month, and  I found myself again travelling the four corners of the UK, visiting different housing providers, sharing best practice and creating new networks. Everyone was engaged and interested. Whilst I felt I had an understanding of the operational side of housing, having the opportunity to engage with those in other organisations encouraged me to think of new ways of working. The GEM Shacks also encouraged us to think strategically, and gave us an understanding of all aspects of the sector, from construction to finance.

We were also given several unique opportunities: we worked with David Tovey, an ex-homeless artist who shared his inspiring story with us, and who challenged us to come up with a project to tackle homelessness in our communities; attended Westminster, and spoke to housing leaders and politicians, discussing the importance of policy making and lobbying; and had an intimate Q&A session with Nick Walkley, the CEO of Homes England, who gave some invaluable careers advice.

I’d return from each GEM Shack feeling invigorated and ready to implement my learning in my day to day job. I found I was able to make more interesting and educated suggestions in team meetings and engage with the bigger picture. It also gave me the confidence to develop my career, as the programme encouraged us to engage with opportunities knowing we had the knowledge and skill set to offer more. When the opportunity arose to apply for a position on the Chartered Institute of Housing Futures Board, I applied and had a successful interview. I was also given another promotion in work, and am now a Neighbourhood Management Officer.

As a bonus to the above, after completing the programme, we earned our CIH Level 4 housing qualification!

I cannot recommend the programme highly enough, whether you complete it as a graduate or as ‘Talent in House’ (as I did). You’ll be given so many opportunities, and the understanding gained of the entire sector, and of the running of a Registered Provider, will be invaluable.