Learning at Work Week 2020: My learning journey – Jonathan Conway
This Learning at Work Week, Chartered Institute of Housing members are sharing their learning journey’s. In this blog, Jonathan Conway, community services team leader from Newport City Homes shares an insight into his housing career.
I started my housing career in a housing benefit department in South Wales. During a period of nearly three years, I learned a lot about benefits, but also a lot about housing and the issues faced by tenants both in the PRS and social rented sectors. I found it very interesting and it encouraged me to pursue a career in housing.
After a few false starts, I was able to move into a role as a housing officer, learning about all things housing management. I learned about rent arrears, anti-social behaviour and lettings to begin with, but this soon extended to estate and property maintenance and the health and safety considerations that need to be taken into account as part of working in frontline housing. Throughout my time as a housing officer I undertook training, to make sure I could do my job effectively, learning about legal changes and benefit changes, as well as time management and having difficult conversations. Not all of my learning was through formal courses though. I attended court, multi-agency meetings, Council ward meetings and dealt with all manner of different situations, that taught me that housing is a complex profession. It was with this in mind I requested sponsorship to study for my MSc in Housing. Luckily for me, my manager supported this request and I was able to broaden my professional knowledge even further, obtaining a qualification that reinforced my experience.
The next big step in my learning journey was the introduction of the the Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS), which meant that the social housing sector had to invest millions of pounds in raising the quality of the homes they provided. The Council I worked for undertook an options appraisal and found that the stock required a significant amount of investment to reach WHQS, so would need to pursue stock transfer to be able to meet the standards expected. I was seconded onto the project team and quickly had to learn to work with residents in a different way, communicating the complex situation we were in and encouraging them to vote in a ballot that would decide the fate of the housing department and housing stock. Having spent years in enforcement, this was a very new situation for me, but one that I not only enjoyed, but was to become the focus of the next stage of my career. It was while working on the stock transfer project, I was able to attain Chartered Membership of the CIH, which opened up new learning opportunities for me in support of my career development as a housing professional.
Following stock transfer, I was able to move into a tenant engagement, working with tenants to improve services and develop the new housing. I learned to run projects, plan events, undertake consultation and, to my surprise, to speak in public. I overcame a stammer and began to run workshops and focus groups. My confidence grew and I was able to work closely with some of the diverse communities that we served. I also began working in partnership with local organisations and began to learn about policy and strategy development, all of which was supported by training courses and the varied experience and exposure my organisation facilitated.
I worked on regeneration projects to help improve neighbourhoods. Undertook training to understand the risks and benefits of housing development and planning. I started to attend conferences. The TPAS Cymru and TAI conferences opened my eyes to even more learning and development opportunities. I have been able to move into a line management role and have undertaken training to more effectively manage safety, as well as to be able to lead, develop and coach a team. I now sit on the Boards of Tai Pawb and CIH Cymru and am a governor for my children’s school, all of which contributes to my learning journey. There is no one route to learning and not all learning needs to be in a class room. Experience is an amazing teacher, but sometimes you need to take a step back to realise it. Keeping my CPD up to date through CIH has helped me gain that perspective and I am proud of my journey. If I have one piece of advice it would be, keep learning! I will.