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24 September 2014

Welsh Housing Associations ‘Leading the Learning’ in Welsh communities.

Welsh Housing Associations ‘Leading the Learning’ in Welsh communities.

Community Housing Cymru (CHC), the membership body for housing associations in Wales, launched Employment and Skills Week in collaboration with CIH Cymru and NIACE Cymru to demonstrate that the housing sector is helping tenants to gain valuable skills, learning, apprenticeship and other employment opportunities in their local areas.

CHC commissioned a ‘Leading the Learning’ survey to coincide with Employment and Skills Week. Thirty seven percent of CHC members responded to the survey and the findings reveal that these housing associations provided 1,806 employment, skills and learning opportunities in 2013/14, averaging at 129 opportunities per association.

CHC’s Interim Chief Executive Sioned Hughes said: “We are a sector that can deliver and far exceed the role of landlord. The sector is a key lever for employment. Our members are offering varied opportunities around the employment, skills and learning agenda such as basic skills training, apprenticeships, vocational training and work placements – making a real difference to people right across Wales.”

Investment varied from association to association, but the average spend on Employment and Skills related activity in 2013/14 was £60,000.

The survey also revealed that 80 percent of housing associations have provided assistance to people and organisations who want to become self-employed or start up a social enterprise.

CHC has also set up the Building Enterprise project, funded by the Wales European Funding Office, to connect housing associations and social enterprises to lock the Welsh pound into Welsh communities.

The sector is also committed to supporting Welsh Government’s ‘Building Resilient Communities’, which aims to reduce the number of young people aged between 16-18 and 19-24 who are NEETs (Not In Education, Employment or Training) by 2017.

Over half of respondents (52 per cent) stated the age breakdown for opportunities provided. Of those, 20 per cent were offered to young people aged 16-18 and 43 per cent to people aged 19-24.

Sioned added: “We are committed to getting more people back into work and addressing low skills levels. We are working in partnership on a number of projects including Welsh Government’s LIFT programme, the Coalfield Regeneration’s Family Employment Initiative and Jobs Growth Wales to name a few.”

Welsh housing associations are also tackling Welsh Government’s concerns that 46 per cent of social housing tenants are digitally excluded. Every member who participated in the survey said they had helped tenants get online in 2013/14. Activity included offering one to one tuition, access to computers in offices, community Wi-Fi and signposting to organisations such as Communities 2.0.

Sioned added: “Getting tenants online is a priority for our sector. As well as welfare reform and the planned roll out of Universal Credit, we need to ensure that tenants are able to find and remain in employment by improving access to digital services and advice.”

CIH Cymru are partners for Employment and Skills Week. As well as being the professional body for housing professionals in Wales, they have also managed the successful i2i Can Do toolkit; ensuring that investment programmes deliver wider community benefits with a particular focus on targeted recruitment and training.

Currently the sector employs more than 8,000 people in full time equivalent positions and for every one of those jobs, a further two jobs are supported within the Welsh economy. The sector also has an excellent reputation for investing in staff development with the average housing association spending £676 on staff training, more than double the Chartered Institute of Personal Development (CIPD) average of £303.

Keith Edwards, Director of CIH Cymru said:

"Employment and Skills Week is an opportunity to 'think career, think housing'. Our recent Frontline Futures report demonstrates just why it's an exciting time to enter housing. The frontline role is changing and evolving, and with that comes the opportunity to learn and grow whilst making a real difference."

Keith added: "We're a sector that has an excellent track record for supporting staff and delivering new employment. i2i, through the Can Do Toolkit, delivered more than 5,000 jobs and training opportunities in 5 years, and hardwired the idea that investment should deliver employment in to national policy."

Employment and Skills Week will run from 22-28 September. Find out more and read supporting materials here.