It seems like a long time since I took my first steps in my housing career as a young housing officer in West Yorkshire.
But I was reminded of my first day in the job when 22 bright young people started at Wheatley at the start of September.
The new recruits – a mixture of university graduates and talented youngsters who are already working with us – were getting to work on our new graduate programme.
The programme aims to help nurture talent and make sure the best and brightest are able to progress in their careers, giving them on-the-job training and development, opportunities for further study and qualifications and mentoring support as they build a successful career with us.
The scheme, which is believed to be the biggest of its kind in the sector, will see people work in every corner of Wheatley, from housing teams to corporate support services and the repairs and investment team.
At its heart is an ambition to grow new talent to become the future leaders of Wheatley and the housing sector.
Leadership, vision and ideas are so important for the sector to properly support communities to flourish in the face of ever-increasing challenges, from welfare reform to digital inclusion.
If I learned only one thing from my time at the frontline of housing back in Kirklees, it was that housing is at its heart about people.
It is more than a roof over someone’s head; it is the very bedrock of a secure, stable and happy life. That means housing is a multi-faceted career that can really make a difference.
Put simply, it is vital that we get the right people in place to continue our work to build better homes and better lives.
The sector must attract, nurture and develop great leaders to drive innovation and excellence for the people who matter most – our customers.
We know young people face serious challenges as they enter the jobs market, so it is important that organisations like Wheatley step in and offer high quality training and development opportunities.
Our graduate programme is yet another way we can help tackle youth unemployment and contribute towards a thriving economy.
Indeed, the graduate programme is intertwined with our Modern Apprentice programme, and particularly talented apprentices, many of whom come from Wheatley Group homes, have been taken on through the graduate programme to take their career development to the next level.
My first days in Kirklees shaped everything I have gone on to do. They left me with important lessons on what social deprivation does to a community and taught me the extent to which housing can play a major role in helping people find a way out of poverty.
That real experience of being on the frontline in housing is behind my ambition to change people’s lives for the better. And that ambition is shared by the young people who are joining us now.
Now I am excited and proud to see such talented graduates from all different disciplines choosing to join Wheatley to carve out a great career in housing, reach their full potential and make a real difference to people’s lives.
People like 23 year-old Hannah Dodds, who graduated with a first class degree in Philosophy from the University of Glasgow and who is one of the 22 young people beginning their career as part of our Ignite programme.
She told us she wanted to join to make difference to the most vulnerable people in Scotland.
When she was still a student, she volunteered at a night shelter for destitute asylum seekers, an experience that sparked a real passion for housing. She found out more about Wheatley and what we are doing to help tackle homelessness, as well as our work in tackling poverty and inequality. I look forward to seeing what people like Hannah will achieve in her career.
I am sure she, along with her new colleagues, will shine and I am confident the future of housing is in safe hands.
Martin Armstrong, Wheatley Group Chief Executive