Stephanie joined the GLA as a Business Administration Apprentice. Here she talks about how the GLA values its apprentices and empowers them to make a real contribution as part of the Homes for Londoners team. She also talks about being part of the GLA’s BAME Staff Network, and how the organisation is working to continue improving diversity and inclusion.
Building affordable homes has a ripple effect. Children don’t see their parents struggle and they do better at school. Education ties in with skills, skills tie in with better employment opportunities, business and the economy. If we can tackle this issue, we can help Londoners thrive.
I came in as one of 12 Business Administration Apprentices. I found out about the role online and, at first, I thought it was just going to be a standard office job. But my opinions are actually valued, which is amazing and totally unexpected, given that I’m an apprentice. I do feel, wow – I’ve actually contributed to something – and that’s great.
Before I started here, I worked in Retail, so this is my first office experience. It was quite difficult to adjust, but everyone was so accommodating. They would take interest and ask what projects I’d like to get involved in, across the wider directorate. They would invite me to meetings I was interested in and help me make connections. Continually, I’ve been encouraged to ask questions and told, ‘there’s no such thing as a silly question’.
Six of us have gone on to become Higher Apprentices, which is a two-year programme.
In fact, a lot of my colleagues started off as apprentices, and now they’re managers. It’s really comforting to know I could go far in this sector.
I’m not saying this for the sake of it: at first, I didn’t know where I was going in life. But I feel like there is a career path for me here. And it does feel like I’ve been nurtured to the point where I’m able to take the next step.
What’s great is that, if I’ve got an interview coming up, my colleagues will approach me and say, ‘put some time in my diary, we’ll go through different types of questions, and how you can turn your experiences into a response’. These are quite senior people, offering their time. It does feel like they’ve invested in me and I owe it to them, as well as myself, to progress.
There are great people in the Homes for Londoners team, and I’m actually really fortunate. The support and encouragement I’ve got here is amazing. We’re all different grades, but it doesn’t feel like that. We’re one big team. And we never lose sight of what we’re here to do.
Our Assistant Director, Rickardo, is the Co-Chair of the GLA’s BAME Staff Network. Especially for me, it’s nice to see that. He’s definitely a great champion for the BAME community, and he’s making real change. We talk about the issues, and how to overcome them, and how to get more BAME individuals into senior roles.
Since the network was established at the GLA, I’ve been able to have conversations with people in other teams and areas. It builds bridges and it’s good to feel there’s light being shed on the issues we face. The GLA is putting those necessary steps in place to help overcome them.
We also bring those discussions into our team meetings, as an agenda item. Diversity and inclusion is a talking point in the office, which is good to know. Even on the intranet, there is often information around LGBT issues which is also great. All of that is boosting the culture within the GLA, and across the Homes for Londoners team.
Things have changed, even since I first joined. We’re becoming more innovative all the time. We’re buying sites and setting the standard for developers. We’re changing the housing market. We’re also going to consultation events and sitting on steering boards with the community and getting their feedback.
I’m getting a great experience. Because we’re not just looking at the statistics, we’re actually hearing people’s voices. I get to go on site visits and see what I and my colleagues have achieved.
To work here, you have to be passionate about making a difference in London. You have to understand how deprivation impacts everything. How, with those financial pressures, some parents can’t afford to pay the rent, and some children go astray. Some even get involved with knife crime.
While there are a lot of issues to address in London, the first step is building a good home. You have to see that, whatever project you’re working on, what you’re doing is all part of the master plan.