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PATH was set up to provide training and work experience in housing-related fields of employment to people from ethnic minorities who were under-represented in these fields. As a result, people from ethnic minorities are able to compete for jobs on equal terms and secure a more representative share of the jobs available in housing and increasingly in private sector organisations with social housing components such as developers and architects.
Two publications in 1983 and 1985 ("Race and Housing") showed that employment by housing associations of people from ethnic minorities in professional posts was extremely limited. Associations were seeking to provide people in the greatest housing with affordable housing. Those housed generally include a greater proportion of people from ethnic minorities than the community at large, and can be up to 60% in London. If associations as employers were to be representative of the communities they were aiming to serve, the barriers were that were causing this imbalance had to be determined and tackled.
Part of the solution lay in better monitoring of applications, interviews and appointments to make sure no discrimination, conscious or unconscious, was taking place. It was clear also that more had to be done to provide training and experience that would give black people the ability to compete on equal terms for jobs in housing professions.
The Federation of Black Housing Organisations, the National Federation of Housing Associations and groups of housing associations therefore decided to set up Positive Action for Training in Housing (PATH). Initially there two schemes in London and Leeds. PATH (London) Limited was set up in 1986.
Equal opportunities policies are intended to give equality of access to employment in a housing association or local authority to all sections of the community. Through monitoring the ethnic origin of people applying for and securing employment, one of the reasons why ethnic minorities were under-represented was found to be their lack of opportunity to gain training and experience in related fields.
PATH provides the training through a day release course at college and on-the-job experience, plus complementary short courses. Day release to attend college-based courses is also an option. The programmes are structured to meet the known requirements of particular posts. Trainees are chosen who are highly motivated and the participating employers are involved in the scheme through positive choice.
PATH provides training for a group of trainees with similar backgrounds and who share
similar experiences, which means they can learn in an environment of mutual support.
Quantitative and Qualitative Impact
PATH (London) has trained 284 men and women since 1986, averaging 40 trainees a year.
Courses run for one, two or three years. The initial focus was on housing management but it has run training courses in a total of fifteen job disciplines:
Equal number of men and women are provided with training. People aged 31 to 35 are the largest proportion of the entry (38%) while there are 25% in each of the 18-25 and 26-30 age-bands. 50% of trainees have degree, 38% have A-levels and 12% have GCSE or else no qualifications at all yet over 60% are unemployed when applying for training.
The scheme has been highly successful. 96% of those trained have obtained full-time employment or gone on to further education within four months of completing their course. High percentage pass-rates are obtained in professional exams for which trainees are entered.
This approach to tackling the effects of past discrimination or a lack of educational opportunity has also been recognised by other groups of employers such as banks, building societies and other professions. PATH (London) aims to take steps to develop work in these areas.
Many trainees undertaking first level PATH courses have seen the scheme as a way of
avoiding a slide into unemployment and possibly crime. One trainee said: "I am doing
a course; many of my brothers are doing time."
Changes in Policy or Practice
"Positive Action" are measures which employers can legally take under the Race Relations Act 1976 to help people from ethnic minorities to compete on equal terms for posts in labour forces where they are under-represented.
The preference of socially aware employers in the UK has been not to use this route but to concentrate instead on better employment and personnel practices such as advertising posts more widely and monitoring the ethnic balance of applicants and appointees so as to identify and eliminate consciously or unconsciously discriminatory practices.
There was initial resistance to PATH therefore but it is now accepted that it can play an extremely important role in informing and providing training for people from ethnic minorities who may be less aware of the employment opportunities available and may have had less opportunity for informal contacts and work experience than white people.
Housing associations, given their aim to help disadvantaged communities, are especially concerned to make sure their staff reflect the community they serve. Where a difference between the percentage in employment and the local community is identified, associations would now look to a PATH scheme as one of the measures to be taken to correct the situation. Support is particularly strong since the aim of the scheme is to overcome the effects of previous discrimination in education or of a loss of confidence because of the difficulties of overcoming discrimination; but the trainee then secures employment in open competition. There is no question therefore of putting people in a job solely to meet a quota or target. Employment is secured on merit.
Following the success of PATH (London), other PATH schemes have been set up elsewhere in the country, both on behalf of housing associations and on behalf of local authorities.
There has been a substantial increase in the proportion of staff from ethnic minorities employed by housing associations. In major London housing associations, around one third of staff now tend to come from ethnic minorities compared to less than 10% in the early 1980s.
In senior positions the proportion is lower at around 10% to 15% but is still increasing as promotion opportunities arise.
PATH has played a significant role in increasing the number of ethnic minority staff working for housing associations in professional, technical and senior posts.
National Federation of Housing Associations (NFHA)
National Federation of Housing Associations (NFHA)
Federation of Black Housing Organisations (FBHO)
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