A group shot of those from GEM Programme

We build peace through housing

I joined the Housing Executive as  a graduate, as part of the tenth cohort of the GEM programme, designed to create future housing leaders.

This involves monthly visits to different regions of the UK to learn about different aspects of housing.

After six months working for the Housing Executive, myself and fellow Gem graduates Rona Simmonds, Clare Meehan and Joseph Elliot were asked to plan and deliver an event known as a GEM Shack.

In April, we welcomed twenty-seven young housing professionals to Belfast to showcase the post-conflict regeneration work happening here.

In 1971, at the height of the Troubles, the Housing Executive was established to bring an impartial, fair and unbiased approach to dealing with housing.

Throughout the conflict, the organisation has continued to deliver housing services, based on need, to all sections of the local community.

It plays a crucial role in transforming homes and neighbourhoods and, importantly, people’s lives.

I really admire the Housing Executive’s commitment to fairness and I love working for an organisation with such an interesting history.

These were two things I wanted to showcase to the other Gem graduates and I kept this in mind when organising the event.

Before the Gem Shack we posed the question to the Gems ‘What do you know about Belfast?’ The unanimous answer was ‘The Troubles’.

We specifically chose a venue in the heart of the city’s Cathedral Quarter which captured the changes that have taken place in Belfast since The Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998.

Many of the English, Scottish and Welsh graduates expressed surprise at the modern and peaceful setting.

At the outset, we detailed a history of the Housing Executive and showed the relationship between housing and the conflict, informing the graduates that housing was one of the issues that was a major catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement back in the ‘sixties’.

We then turned the spotlight from past to present, discussing the presence and removal of peace walls and the regeneration that is taking place through community groups and social enterprise initiatives.

Jennifer Hawthorne, the Housing Executive’s Belfast Regional Manager demonstrated to the Gem graduates that in Northern Ireland – we build peace through housing!

In the afternoon, it was time to get real – we met two North Belfast community activists, who told their stories of what it’s like to live at an interface and what it really takes to build peace.

Lunch was provided by the Social Enterprise Bosco Bakery, which has been funded by the Housing Executive and afterwards, two Housing Executive staff members took us on a tour focused on social housing regeneration and re-imaging.

We visited the CS Lewis Square, Pitt Park and Bombay Street and saw the conflict sketched on gable walls in the form of colourful murals. We even managed to sneak a quick peek of The Game of Thrones set!

During the tour, the Gems visited the ‘No More’ mural in East Belfast, depicting the grandson of a Loyalist community worker shaking hands with the granddaughter of a Sinn Fein councillor.

This cross-community embrace is accompanied by a pro peace poem.

Back at base, the Gems got to play their role in re-imaging Northern Ireland, completing a jigsaw version of the ‘No More’ mural, created by the East Belfast artist Dee Craig.

We channelled our inner ‘art attack’ and the workshop affirmed that art brings people together.

It was a very intense first day!

Day two kicked off with the Social Enterprise Investments Programme Manager Paul Carland wowing the Gems by explaining the opportunities the programme brings to deprived areas, helping communities to help themselves.

Next, a ‘Shared Future Panel’ made up of Housing Executive staff in various roles explained that transformation is reliant upon education and changing the conversations at home,  which eventually creates the people we become.

In the afternoon, we shifted focus on to the graduates themselves – giving them a chance to provide feedback on the Gem Shack.

Some were amazed at the work the Housing Executive does in terms of creating cohesive communities, whereas others noted the organisation ‘keeps its ears to the ground’, while working at the pace at which their communities feel comfortable.

By visiting Belfast, the Gems saw for themselves that change in Northern Ireland is ongoing from the copious sky-scrapers that are shooting up across the city centre. The Gems also saw first-hand the Housing Executive’s efforts to promote Community Cohesion to ensure that progress and change are for all communities in Northern Ireland.

We received positive feedback about the event from our guests and our other colleagues and we’re delighted that we did ourselves and the Housing Executive proud!

https://www.24housing.co.uk/opinion/we-build-peace-through-housing/ 

A Wee GEM

As part of the GEM Programme, a graduate programme run by Centre for Partnership, part of Incommunities Group, I get to experience a wealth of opportunities I would never have believed!

 

The most recent GEM shack we (Cohort 10) embarked on was to Glasgow, Scotland. I have never been to Scotland (shameful, I know) therefore, all the stereotypes I had taken from the media were firmly embedded in my mind.

Although very shallow of me, I envisioned pulling into a grey concrete jungle, full of high-rise buildings.

How wrong could I have been?! Stepping out of the station on the way to the hotel, I stood immersed in the buzz of the lunchtime rush in awe at the beautiful architecture and vibrant culture of Glasgow.

Wheatley Group, in the heart of Merchant City, was the host for our two-day workshop on the topic of Social Regeneration.

Wheatley staff, including the two Wheatley GEMs, shared their values and how this influences their understanding of social regeneration.

I know now it is not just about knocking down old timeworn houses and building shiny new ones but about the regeneration of social opinions in the communities that live within the city.

Wheatley Group is working hard to put policies and practices in place to strengthen their ethos of social regeneration and customer excellence.

In house employability schemes which allow their tenants to be employed full time within Wheatley Group create a more inclusive and diverse workplace whilst building relationships of trust and  confidence in their tenants.

A concept Wheatley is very proud of (and rightly so) is ‘Think Yes’.

This is something GHA, Wheatley’s biggest social landlord, introduced to enable their employees, in particular their housing officers, to use their professional judgment to say YES to tenants.

Previously officers would have had to either say no or go through management for a definitive answer to queries such as washing machine replacements or building a fence in a tenant’s back garden.

Housing Officers now have a small budget to find solutions to suit both the needs of the business and the customer.

Hearing from staff who have engaged in ‘Think Yes’ shows that it allows housing officers to be more collaborative and  think intuitively to enhance the housing services that are provided to their tenants.

Not only did this increase their job satisfaction but deepened their relationship with their customers.

Wheatley is doing some really innovative and creative things to connect with their tenants on a new level that many of us had never seen before.

Many GEM students felt that many organisations in the UK have barriers within them that prevent NHOs or other officers from having the confidence in their professional judgement to make decisions.

I think it is safe to say GEM cohort 10 came away from the WHG GEM Shack with their minds full of innovative ideas and creative concepts to take back to their organisations regarding social regeneration.

Many of the ideas discussed placed an emphasis on the importance of organisations moving away from old-fashioned policies to help redesign our housing systems for the better.

Ultimately we want to make our housing sector more about building relationships with people, building communities and building maintainable homes… and not just building houses with bricks and mortar.

 GEM housing programme in ‘triple’ training success

   

GEM housing programme in ‘triple’ training success

Thirty-four young people have been recruited onto Incommunities’ biggest graduate development programme yet. They met up last week for the launch of cohort 10 of the award winning GEM programme.

The recruits came from housing and construction organisations across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Canada!

The GEM Programme is run by the Centre for Partnership team – part of the Incommunities Group – and aims to fast track graduates that show leadership potential and strong social values into exciting careers in housing.

It is accredited by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) with recruits studying for a Level 4 qualification.

The latest cohort gathered at the University of Bradford’s Management Centre for two days of group work, case studies and a practical exercise covering the basics of different construction skills.

Fifteen staff from the different partners running traineeships as part of cohort 10 were also given mentor training to support the individual GEMs in their workplace.

Among the new recruits is supported housing officer, George Kimmance, who has started on the GEM programme with six other colleagues from Plus Dane Housing on Merseyside. George was attracted to the programme after hearing great things about it from a former GEM student at a local jobs fair.

George said: “I’ve always been interested in moving into housing having worked part-time as a carer in supported living schemes helping people with different needs.

“Doing the professional training GEMs provides and learning alongside other graduates from different organisations and backgrounds will really help my progression.

“I’m excited about the next 12 months.”

Psychology graduate Clare Meehan works as a community involvement officer with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and is one of four GEM recruits from the Belfast-based organisation.

Clare said: “I’m really interested in conflict resolution and feel the programme will give me a broader knowledge of the housing profession and also help me in my role in bringing communities together.

“It’s also great to be combining my learning with work experience of different departments of the Executive. The GEM programme has the added appeal of leading to an accredited CIH qualification.”

As well as kicking-off cohort 10, the Centre for Partnership Team launched the Experienced Professional Route, fast track training to CIH chartered membership. Four successful graduates from previous GEM programmes have signed up for this professional pathway.

Geraldine Howley, Incommunities Group Chief Executive and Chair of the Centre for Partnership, said: “The GEM programme goes from strength to strength and is celebrating a triple milestone in launching its biggest cohort yet, the largest mentoring training we’ve run and the fast track route to CIH chartered status.

“The programme is built on a proven track record of delivering real opportunities for young housing talent in the UK and beyond! The future is definitely looking bright.”

Trevor Smith, Director of the Centre for Partnership, said: “I am delighted to welcome so many GEM recruits and their mentors onto the latest programme.

“The energy, passion and enthusiasm shown by everyone – students, mentors, tutors and housing leaders – in the GEM programme is really exciting. It continues to grow as a leading professional route for young people with ambitions to become tomorrow’s leaders.”

Ends

 

Issued by Tony Lofthouse, Incommunities Media & Communications Officer on 01274 254253. tony.lofthouse@incommunities.co.uk

 

Photos 1 and 2 shows GEM recruits from cohort 10 at Incommunities’ construction training centre.

 

Photo 3 and 4 shows the GEM recruits in a practical construction skills exercise.

 

Notes

 

The partner organisations providing traineeships in cohort 10 are: Incommunities, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, United Living, Plus Dane Housing, Regenda Group, South Liverpool Homes, Horton Housing, Gentoo, Rooftop Housing, Wheatley Housing Group, Connect Housing and GEF Seniors Housing.

 

To find out more about the GEM programme click http://www.centreforpartnership.co.uk/the-gems/

 

Incommunities Group has over 22,600 homes in West and South Yorkshire. Incommunities is the biggest social landlord in the Bradford District and the Huddersfield-based Sadeh Lok is a traditional BME Housing Association formed in 1988.

GEM graduates celebrate making the grade

GEM graduates celebrate making the grade

Twenty-five young people are celebrating completing the latest learning programmes run by Incommunities, aimed at setting them on course to build successful careers in housing.

A number of students from cohort 8 of the Graduate Employment Mentoring (GEM) Programme joined young people from Buttershaw Business and Enterprise College who had completed a Junior GEM scheme, at an awards presentation in Shipley.

The GEM Programme is a 12-month programme which is run by the housing group’s Centre for Partnership Team. It includes paid traineeships with a range of housing associations and Councils in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as Canada and is accredited by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH).

Geraldine Howley, Incommunities’ Group Chief Executive and Chair of the Centre for Partnership, presented a number of the successful GEMs with CIH Level 3 and 4 certificates.

Geraldine Howley said: “I would like to congratulate all our successful GEM and Junior GEM students on their outstanding success.

“The programme has a proven track record in delivering real opportunities for young people to build exciting careers in housing and continues to expand. We are now delivering our ninth graduate programme involving nine partners across the UK and now Canada. The future is definitely looking bright.”

Among the successful students from cohort 8 was Lily Feasby who works for Yorkshire Housing as a Leasehold Services Officer.

She said: “My GEM experience has been very rewarding. As part of my traineeship, I worked for Incommunities’ leasehold team and completing the programme enabled me to move on to secure a great job with another leading housing group.

“The programme has been brilliant in opening the door to a career in housing for me and many other GEMs.”

Trevor Smith, Director of the Centre for Partnership, said: “This celebration event recognised the fantastic contribution of students, tutors, managers, training providers and housing leaders who, together, want to change lives and be part of an exciting new future for the sector.

“Going forward, our aim remains focused on supporting many more graduates – turning them from talented students to shining GEMs.”

Since 2009, the GEM Programme has gone from strength to strength with 97 graduates completing the qualification now working in the housing sector.

Ends

 

Issued by Tony Lofthouse, Incommunities Media & Communications Officer on 01274 254253. tony.lofthouse@incommunities.co.uk

Photo 1 shows Geraldine Howley Incommunities’ Group Chief Executive (front right) with some of the successful GEM students, Junior GEMs, tutors, managers, training providers and housing leaders.

Photo 2 shows the successful GEM students. They are from left to right: Jacob Lister and Joshua Simpson from Buttershaw Business and Enterprise College; Danisa Baloyi (Kirklees Council); Lily Feasby (Yorkshire Housing); Kate Richards (Great Places Housing Group) and Nicolas Bould (LIV property agents).

Notes

To find out more about the GEM programme click http://www.centreforpartnership.co.uk/the-gems/

 

Incommunities Group has over 22,600 homes in West and South Yorkshire. Incommunities is the biggest social landlord in the Bradford District and the Huddersfield-based Sadeh Lok is a traditional BME Housing Association formed in 1988.

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Call to graduates to embrace homeless challenge at city event

Call to graduates to embrace homeless challenge at city event

A group of future housing leaders from across the UK will meet up in Bradford this week (8thDecember)  to look at how they can help turn ‘rough lives’ around at a unique homelessness event.

Hosted  by local housing group Incommunities, 23 recruits on the latest GEM – Graduate Employment Mentoring – programme will on the day get a compelling insight into the growing rough sleeping crisis facing the UK and be challenged to come up with their own solutions.

The Homeless GEMshack event takes place at the University of Bradford’s Heaton Mount. It is being run by the group’s Centre for Partnership and will bring together a former homeless person who has turned his life around, national housing leaders, homelessness officers and representatives from local and major homeless charities.

The event will be chaired by Incommunities’ Group Chief Executive and Chair of the GEM Programme,  Geraldine Howley.

Speakers will include Nigel Tooby, artist in residence at the Leeds-based charity, Simon on the Streets. Nigel will introduce ‘Eye Spy’, a hard-hitting exhibition of photographic images of life on the streets through the eyes of the homeless themselves. Nigel’s exhibition has received critical acclaim in London and Bath.

He will be joined by David Tovey who will share his personal account of his life, sliding from being a successful army chef who cooked for the Queen to ending up on the streets not knowing where he could find food. David transformed his life creating the Man On Bench fashion label to help raise awareness of homelessness. He is also an award winning artist and photographer and has exhibited at the Tate Modern.

Key presentations will also be given by Terrie Alafat, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, Paul Gartland, Chief Executive of Bradford-based Horton Housing, Andrew Burnip, Director at Crisis and Grace Darbyshire, Communications Director at South Yorkshire Housing Association who leads the Cathy at 50 campaign.

The Cathy at 50 campaign, launched by Inside Housing, is aimed at raising awareness of homelessness and promoting innovative practices to tackle the problem. The campaign will form part of the event. The campaign marks the 50th anniversary of Ken Loach’s iconic film ‘Cathy Come Home’ which exposed the problems of housing and homelessness when it was released 1966.

The GEMshack will also feature a Question Time session with the key speakers, a speed dating exercise where the GEM graduates will explore how they can help address homelessness through volunteering, fundraising or through their careers.

On the day, Geraldine Howley will present a ‘big cheque’ donation of £1000, on behalf of Incommunities, to the Crisis at Christmas campaign in support of the charities work supporting rough sleepers.

Incommunities Group Chief Executive, Geraldine Howley, said: “Homelessness is a growing problem that devastates lives with the number of people on the streets doubling since 2010.

“Housing providers, local authorities and charities face increasing challenges in responding to its impact. This event is about raising awareness of homelessness and engaging with young leaders at the start of their housing journey.

“Tackling homelessness is fundamental to working in social housing and it’s vital they get it!”

Trevor Smith, Director of the Centre for Partnership, said: “The GEM programme is about delivering talented graduates ready to meet the many challenges facing the housing sector.

“Homelessness reflects the single biggest challenge facing housing. It is fundamental to the development of the sector and is why we work in social housing. Today’s event is about ensuring housings future leaders understand and embrace homelessness and become part of the solutions.”

Since its launch in 2009, the GEM programme has gone from strength to strength. Over 95% of GEMs completing the programme secure jobs. Nearly one-third of GEMs now working in housing are from BME backgrounds and two-thirds are female.

The students taking part in the event are part of cohort 9 of the GEM programme and come from housing associations and related organisations across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. For the first time two of the latest GEM recruits are from Canada and are studying the Chartered Institute of Housing accredited programme via distance learning.

Ends

 

Issued by Tony Lofthouse, Incommunities Media & Communications Officer on 01274 254253. tony.lofthouse@incommunities.co.uk

 

Media interview opportunities

 

Between 12.30pm and 1.15pm (8th Dec) there will be the opportunity to interview Nigel Tooby, artist-in-residence at the Leeds-based charity, Simon on the Streets and former rough sleeper turned entrepreneur David Tovey. All the day’s speakers and GEM graduates will also be available.

 

Speakers and GEM graduates and will be also available for phone interviews before the event (event starts 9.45am) and after (4pm).

To arrange interviews/photos please contact Tony Lofthouse, Incommunities Media & Communications Officer on 01274 254253. tony.lofthouse@incommunities.co.uk

Photo opportunity – 12.30pm at Heaton Mount (Bradford University), BD9 4JU Nigel Tooby, David Tovey, housing leaders and some of the GEM students can be pictured viewing ‘Eye Spy’ exhibition of images of life on the streets through the eyes of the homeless themselves.

 

Incommunities Group has over 22,600 homes in West and South Yorkshire. Incommunities is the biggest social landlord in the Bradford District and the Huddersfield-based Sadeh Lok is a traditional BME Housing Association formed in 1988.

 

For more information on the GEM programme and how to apply online click www.centreforpartnership.co.uk/the-gems/ or ring 01274 254701.

New GEM programme welcomes international recruits


New GEM programme welcomes international recruits

Incommunities’ award winning graduate development programme is going international as two Canadian housing officers join its latest group of recruits.

The Bradford-based housing group is launching cohort 9 of the GEM Programme – Graduate Employment Mentoring programme – with a two-day induction (Thurs – Friday) at the University of Bradford’s Heaton Mount centre.

The GEM programme is run by the Centre for Partnership and aims to fast track graduates that show leadership potential and strong social values into exciting careers in housing.

Cole McNamee and Nicole Han become the first overseas graduates to join the blended learning programme, taking their place with 24 students from across the UK.

They work for Capital Region Housing, which manages nearly 5,000 rented properties in Edmonton, Alberta, Western Canada.

Cole and Nicole were put in touch with the Centre for Partnership after their Chief Executive (Greg Dewling) attended a presentation by Geraldine Howley on the success of the GEM programme and wanted to get involved.

Nicole Han said: “I am a firm believer in snapping up an opportunity to learn and grow.

“Joining the GEM programme is a great way of developing my career, achieving CIH recognition and getting an international perspective on the housing sector.”

Cole McNamee said: “Coming to the UK and Incommunities is a fantastic opportunity and when I heard about the GEM programme at work I wanted to apply straightaway.

“I have only been working in social housing for a short time and I’m particularly keen on the mentoring approach to advance my learning.

“Incommunities have been great hosts and visiting some of the housing has given me a real insight in preparation for the programme.”

The programme also welcomes for the first time two recruits from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and five from the leading construction company, United Living.

During the two-day induction, everyone will meet tutors and mentors from partner organisations as well get first-hand experience from previous GEM students of the value of the programme.

A host of housing associations and related organisations are providing paid one-year placements as part of the programme. They include Incommunities, Contour Homes, Orbit Group, Northern Ireland Housing Executive, Regenda Homes, Salix Homes, South Yorkshire Housing Group, Thurrock Council, United Living and the Glasgow-based Wheatley Group.

The GEM programme is accredited by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) with students studying for a Level 4 qualification as well as taking part in intensive personal and leadership development activities.

Recruits are joining a programme that gets results. Over 95% of GEMs completing the programme secure jobs. Nearly one-third of GEMs now working in housing are from BME backgrounds and two-thirds are female.

Incommunities Group Chief Executive, Geraldine Howley, said: “The GEM programme goes from strength to strength expanding from a local venture seven years ago into a UK wide programme that is now attracting international recruits.

“We are delighted to welcome Nicole, Cole and all our new partners and their GEMs onto this exciting programme where they can really make a name for themselves and build rewarding careers in the sector.

“All our new GEM recruits will meet for the first time this week and be given an insight into how the UK social housing sector has evolved as well as look at the challenges it faces today.

Trevor Smith, Director of the Centre for Partnership, said: “It’s really exciting to see our strategy for GEM expand into the construction sector and our growth geographically become a reality this week.

“We will be forging more international partnerships whilst we are delivering this programme as we know housing is a global issue which requires a pipeline of talented graduates to meet the challenges of the future.

“As an integral part of the GEM programme, it will be interesting to deliver not just across the UK but also across the Atlantic using Skype and other technologies.”

 

Ends

Issued by Tony Lofthouse, Incommunities Media & Communications Officer on 01274 254253. tony.lofthouse@incommunities.co.uk

Pictured – Cole McNamee and Nicole Han with Geraldine Howley (right) and Georgina Uttley (left) from Incommunities’ Centre for Partnership Team.

Incommunities Group has over 22,600 homes in West and South Yorkshire. Incommunities is the biggest social landlord in the Bradford District and the Huddersfield-based Sadeh Lok is a traditional BME Housing Association formed in 1988.

For more information on the GEM programme and how to apply online click www.centreforpartnership.co.uk/the-gems/ or ring 01274 254701.