Work Experience: Alys reflects on her 3 weeks with the Housing team

Alys "This placement has been so useful for my degree as it's a real world perspective on the theory that I'm doing in the classroom. I'd 100% recommend work placements with Wales & West Housing!
Alys has benefitted from a 3 week work placement at Wales & West Housing to help support her through her Human Geography degree. At the end of the placement, we took some time with Alys to understand her experience and why she would recommend work placements with Wales & West Housing to others.

Q: How did you come to the decision to do a work placement with Wales & West Housing?

I worked with the work placements team at Cardiff University to find out which organisations would be most relevant to my degree. They mentioned a housing association because of the focus in Human Geography on human interactions and the effects of where people live on social inequality. It sounded like an excellent idea to see the work of a housing association in real life because when you’re in lectures at university, it’s a classroom setting and you can only discuss the theory: you’ll learn a lot more from seeing it and being out and about. So that’s why I was drawn to a work placement in housing.

I did some research online to find Housing associations that operate in South Wales and sent my CV and covering letter to a few organisations. Wales & West Housing responded within a month and offered me a placement for the summer which I instantly accepted!

Q: What was your experience like with the Careers Team at Wales & West Housing? How well was your work placement organised?

I pretty much had access to every area of the organization I could have wanted to have access to! If I said at the beginning of the week, “I’m really interested in looking at the role of Community Development Officers and seeing what they do” that was facilitated. Even when there were occasions where team members were off on annual leave it was still arranged for me to have meetings with people from those teams to help give me an understanding of their job. One such meeting was with Hannah who works a lot with the development team. She was fantastic and I was able to ask a barrage of questions and she answered every single one of them! I think the meeting was only supposed to be an hour. We were there for about an hour and a half to 2 hours! So even when some site visits couldn’t happen, something was always organised for me.

It was very flexible through my time here also. Whilst I was out with Housing Officers I had asked about the steps taken by Wales & West Housing to get the right people into the right properties. The Housing Officer told me about the Housing Options Team and their role in the process, so I fed back that I’d like to spend some time with them, and by the next week I had time put into my diary with them. Wales & West Housing were really accommodating and I was able to ask any question that I wanted to.

Q: What were some of the other things you experienced over the 3 weeks with Wales & West Housing?

The first week was spent in the office, and I attended the corporate induction training programme which was really helpful because I was able to get a broad sense of the organisation. It was almost like speed dating with people from a number of different departments and I was able to see what they do, and how they contribute to the organisation.

The second week I went out and about a lot more. I spent two days with housing officers Danielle and Dayne, who were brilliant as they took me around a number of different Wales & West Housing properties that they cover. I got to shadow what they do in their day-to-day and see the issues they deal with. I met a number of residents which was really insightful and eye opening to help me understand the relationship between Wales & West Housing and  their residents.

I also spent a few days with Herman who is a Community Development Officer. This was very fun! We went to a few community events, one of which was organised by the emergency services where Wales & West Housing had an information stand. People would visit each of the stands to gain further understanding of what the represented organisations do. I got really involved this day as people would come up to me and ask me a few questions, some of which I was able to help with and others I needed to redirect. A lot of people at the event were residents and asking for specific information so I pointed them in the direction of Herman and Sarah who were there to help on the day!

It’s been really interesting to see that this organisation isn’t just about finding people houses. They’re also helping to build communities and are dedicated to finding ways to support residents to ensure they feel genuinely listened to and receive the service they want.

In summary, the three weeks has been packed and with a lot of variety!

“I’ve been able to get practical experience and through seeing what each role entails I’ve been able to understand whether they would be good career choices for me”

Q: How does what you’ve learned link back to your degree?

The placement has been so useful for my degree as it’s a real world perspective on the theory that I’m doing in the classroom. We do touch upon housing in the course content but it’s not really covered in depth. And what doesn’t come across is the scale of the need for housing as well as the different aspects to housing development planning and the support services that the organisation offer.

Earlier this year I wrote a piece of coursework on social inequality and I was looking at case study of Cardiff and how areas of deprivation have evolved over the years. I’ve read a lot about the subject and researched the background in depth. But without actually seeing it first hand, how much of perspective was I actually going to get? So in completing this placement I was able to see the scale of the housing problem in Wales and how much need for social housing there is, not just theorising it in uni.

This placement has helped bring the practicality to the theory. 

Q: Would you recommend to anyone thinking of completing a work placement with Wales & West Housing?

100% I’d recommend work placements with Wales & West Housing. It’s really good to gain experience here if you’re not sure what career you want to go into. At Wales & West Housing I’ve had the opportunity to experience a number of different departments like finance, community work, building development and so much more. For someone like me, who coming into this didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I graduate, I’ve been able to get that practical experience and through seeing what those roles entail and what they do I’ve been able to understand whether they would be good career choices for me or not. Now I’ve got more focus on the types of roles I’d likely enjoy and the types of career I’d have the skills to go into when I graduate. Thanks Wales & West Housing!

If you’re interested in completing a work placement with Wales & West Housing email to talk to the team about the best opportunity for you.

Dan Ryan