Monday, 22 September 2014

Employment and Skills Week - housing is a rare case of economic growth

Five years ago, i2i launched the first Can Do Toolkit in response to demand from the housing sector for practical help to capture the power of housing investment for local people and communities. It wasn’t a new idea. In my TPAS Cymru days, I had the privilege to be shown the work of the Young Builders Trust who, in partnership with Cardiff Community HA, had set up a training and employment project for young people who were then able to move into the homes they had helped build and refurbish. Many other associations and local authorities have been involved in similar schemes over the years.

The difference now is that this approach is standard for most housing associations and local authority landlords across Wales. Our annual survey published in March showed that the housing sector, by adopting the i2i approach, had created 5,135 jobs and training opportunities - 1,365 every year. And this happened at a time when the Welsh economy has struggled with recession. Compare housing with the steel industry, a sector close to my heart as the proud son of a steelworker. Tata Steel employs just under 4,000 at its Port Talbot works and is the largest single site employer in Wales. In July, a further 400 redundancies were announced. The contrast with housing is evident both in terms of the numbers and the direction of travel – housing is a rare case of economic growth.

The other good news is that where housing has led the way, others are following. The recently launched Community Benefits Guide from Value Wales (you can obtain a copy from has adopted the Can Do Toolkit ‘double default’ approach, making targeted recruitment and training the first ‘ask’. Our motivation remains to make real and lasting differences to people's lives. In the words of my i2i colleague Gareth Jones, community benefits are:

‘a long term solution to bring employment, economic and social gain to disadvantaged populations to help break the cycle of poverty and promote equality and inclusion.’

This is a long haul, made worse by welfare reform, austerity and more looming public service cuts. What can’t be denied is that housing continues to lead the way in the most challenging of times. CHC and its members, local authorities, contractors, small businesses and communities themselves have contributed to this success and learnt huge amounts in the process. We deserve a collective pat on the back. And then we need to refocus and move on, build on what we’ve achieved and keep our eye on the prize of long term, economically vibrant communities across Wales.

Keith Edwards, Director
CIH Cymru

This week is Employment and Skills Week, run by the Community Housing Cymru Group in partnership with CIH Cymru and NIACE Cymru. 

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