Shifting perceptions of social housing providers

3 min readAug 22, 2023


How a decade of difficult times made housing a top career destination for socially-minded graduates

By Craig Pemblington

Amongst the bustle of university sports halls, with tote bags and stationary emblazoned with the logos of financial services employers, the graduate careers fair of the 2010s was fast becoming a great space to talk to students about careers in social change. Starved of too few career options to make a difference, a sizeable and growing number of ambitious grads flocked to a modest stall to talk to us about getting a job in the non-profit sector through Charityworks — the UK non-profit sector’s graduate scheme.

Fast forward almost 15 years and 1400+ alumni later, and the lines are bigger and quite often in the virtual world, the students no less passionate — but something significant has changed. The common line of yesteryear — “what’s housing got to do with charities?” — is a thing of the past. Now exceptional, socially motivated people are embracing a career in social housing as part of our offer and actively seeking to work in this sector.

The figures are stark. Where previously it was almost expected to encourage and demystify the housing sector for prospective candidates, now 70% of everyone in our talent pool this year selected housing as an interest area they’d like to work in. It has led to one of our biggest sector areas of talent growth with social housing providers, and other related non-profit housing and care organisations accounting for around 1 in 4 of all the opportunities on the programme.

We’ve always felt the need to expand the horizons of our talent pool beyond the household brands and the types of charity they are exposed to beyond just major international development and human rights organisations (though they are no less important). But housing is no longer a sell. Housing in of itself has become in itself a career destination in the way that it never used to be.

I largely attribute this to two things. Our ambitious work with our partners to present the sheer range of opportunities available at social housing partners and the genuine opportunity for professional growth and development. Some of our partners compliment our development programme with internal training and deeply value holding on to their talented staff through offering career progression routes, complementing the robust 12-month development offer provided for by Charityworks.

The second is the context in which we are living and working. Starting with the Spending Review in 2010, housing has been a major social issue far more prevalent in mainstream press. Key points in the last decade have included the welfare reforms in 2013 that gave rise to the changes in the Local Housing Allowance (bedroom tax) accompanied by the prevalent “Benefits Street” rhetoric during the years of austerity. Serious fire safety challenges highlighted perhaps most significantly through the tragedy at Grenfell in 2017 is likely another factor. Most recently, the cost of living crisis, rise in homelessness, and indeed general fall in tenure and affordability has placed housing as a real social issue that impacts upon the demographics of the candidate pool itself.

Our candidates not only feel an affinity and drive to pursue social change in this space, but we know that talented and committed people using their time and talent in the pursuit of social change will greatly benefit the sector in the coming years. We’ve leveraged this in a number of ways. Whether it’s working with partners in housing to fill ad hoc, single vacancies in any business directorate with exceptional people able to create immediate impact, or more strategically to develop a regular talent pipeline with internal development baked in, even branded internally as a bespoke graduate offer. In other cases, we’ve worked closely with partners on challenges around workforce diversity and inclusion (here) owing to a candidate pool that’s 40% BAME.

However we work together, at a time where the UK faces an increasingly strong demand for affordable homes, and where the social housing sector operates with limited resources and changing government policy, we’re ever more confident that ambitious, passionate talent can be a fundamental force for effective change in this space.

If you’d like to access this talent, we currently have 200+ of the most exceptional graduates ready to join real roles in the housing sector, today. Accessible to all organisations regardless of size, profile, or activity — Charityworks provides an affordable way to find and develop brilliant talent. Click here to talk to us.


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