New Year, new career: Graduates learn the ropes

CityWest Homes is dedicated to providing a career path for the workforce of the future. That's why we launched the CityWest Homes Academy Graduate Scheme in 2014.

Since then, two exceptional graduates have joined our offices, gaining first-hand experience of the sector. Four months on, our graduates - Gary Allen (pictured right) and Nathan Laurencin (pictured left) – have been learning the ropes and finding out just what makes housing such a fascinating sector.

- 1. The last time we spoke, you were getting to grips with finance and frontline working. Where are you now?

Gary: The scheme gives us the chance to work in several different business areas of our choice. It’s a great way to learn a whole range of aspects. I’ve now moved from frontline services to corporate projects and quality, which is a big change. I’m currently involved in many projects, including Universal Credit, rent increases, estate inspections and performance monitoring. It’s really interesting. As with my previous placement, the work is very varied and I say keep it coming.

Nathan: I was working in CityWest Direct central before and have now moved into the community partnerships team. Having seen life on the estate office, I’m now learning about fantastic community projects which aim to benefit residents from all backgrounds. I’m working with our partners in the NHS to help arrange health fairs across Westminster and interacting with residents through projects such as the Westminster Works scheme, which helps residents to find work. I’ve attended business meetings with City of Westminster College, to help our residents who study there to obtain employment after completing their courses. I’ve also learnt about the procurement process, whilst working along with Mike Wilson, neighbourhoods project coordinator, as he secures new playgrounds and outdoor gyms on our estates.

- 2. Sounds like a big change. Are you enjoying it?

Gary: Definitely. I’m working with a diverse team, dipping in and out and learning a lot. They’ve given me a full work plan and there’s a lot to take in - but I prefer that. As with frontline services, I need to be proactive about my role because I want to get everything I can out of it. I speak to different team members and talk to them about their roles. It’s incredibly valuable to learn the business direct from people who are experts in their fields and put their knowledge into practise every day. The flexible approach to learning has always been one of the best things about this scheme.

Nathan: In many ways, it’s similar to the last one I worked in. I’m still on the frontline and working on the go. Things come up quickly so you learn how to react and deal with situations under pressure. This is a great skill and definitely increases your confidence. Plus the role is so varied and no day is the same. One day I’m working on projects which are related to sports provision on our estates, and the next I’m discussing how we can help residents to find employment through Westminster Works. Studying is valuable to help you grow in life and work; but there’s nothing like first-hand experience to really find your feet in a job.

- 3. Would you still recommend a scheme like this to other graduates?

Gary: It’s a great way to learn. You really do have the freedom to learn at your own pace and always with support from the team. Of course you have to be proactive – you need to find the opportunities for yourself too. With both teams I’ve worked in, everyone makes time to support you.

Nathan: I agree, you do need to be proactive. It’s a great opportunity, so you want to make the most of it. My colleagues have always made me feel comfortable, so I can ask questions. There’s a real family feel here. When it’s fast paced, you stick together. There will always be good and bad days, but the bad ones help to bring out the best in the team and pull them together.

- 4. Have there been any shocks along the way?

Gary: Not really. I studied housing so I came here with some understanding of what’s involved. Plus I’ve been supported by everyone here throughout. A great help has been that Nathan and I have kept in touch through our placement. We’ve been able to swap ideas and support each other. In May I’ll be joining another team in the business and I’m sure that’ll bring new challenges.

Nathan: It’s been a bit of a surprise. Seeing the diversity of our residents, not just in their cultural backgrounds but also in their circumstances, has taught me a lot. Life on the frontline opens up the estates and shows you the real people living on them.

It’s such a great opportunity to learn how housing works. It’s really all about the people living on our estates. In March I’m heading to the resident relations team, which is responsible for dealing with resident’s key priorities, organising local events and leading on major works consultation. It’s going to be interesting.

If you have any queries about the scheme, please contact the CityWest Homes human resources team on 020 7245 2048 or

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