At a recent DFG Champions Roadshow I had a great discussion with someone who suggested that the sector as a whole was struggling to attract young people, and that this was affecting its capacity to change and modernise. At the time, I freely acknowledged both my part in the problem and the risk of ageism. Nevertheless, I do feel that the difficulties the sector is having in attracting the right workforce, and particularly younger people, is affecting our effectiveness in the long run.  This is not to belittle the passion, expertise and commitment we all bring to the work.  Rather, I should like to see more of the new ideas, different vision and energy that people starting out in their career bring to their work. 

For the past four years Foundations has been hosting Summer Internships for undergraduates in their final year of studies. Their work has provided new insights to the sector on its changing make up and internal processes, the challenges of hoarding and dementia, the characteristics of successful leadership in the sector and what home means to people from different ethnic backgrounds. Much of these have found their way into our webinars and support to the sector as well as helping the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to understand life at the coalface better. 

The great thing for us was that this has introduced an entire generation of young bright people to the sector.  Some, like Yasmeen and John, have started their working life in support of adaptations for older and disabled people.  John is now a qualified community Occupational Therapist and Yasmeen is our very own Policy Executive.   

This summer we are hoping to welcome more interns than ever with the help of the University of Northumbria and Nottingham Trent University. They will be looking at a range of issues which can provide a startling insight into some of the less chartered areas of our work.  One will look at the experience of the Gypsy and Traveller Community of the DFG. Dr Rachel Russell will support an intern to look at the issues for District Council Housing Authorities employing in-house Occupational Therapists. There is a Technical Internship shining a light on the challenges modern construction techniques give to manufacturers and installers of lifts. We also hope to identify somebody able to construct some on-line training modules for some of the more common requests to our Foundations Case Manager Team. 

All our interns are paid, and beyond the fruit of their labours, it is lovely to have new, enthusiastic, digitally native team members that challenge us to look at things differently and try new things. You will no doubt see some of their insights in the coming months. Of course, if you want to share the experience of hosting an intern next year please contact me as I should be thrilled to support you.  In the meantime, If you are asked to help one of our latest cohort, I hope you will give them a warm welcome and provide them with the things they need to shine.  It will change all of us.