Are housing professionals born or made? The role of education and identity amongst housing professionals in Ireland.
PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.
The concept of a housing professional is a new and often disputed term. Qualitative research into the culture and identity of occupational groups involved in social housing provision and management has been relatively scarce. Research has concentrated, almost exclusively, on the individual involved in the housing construction and output side of housing provision. This neglect is surprising given the importance of housing in people‟s lives. The thesis examines the identities, experiences and education of those working in the Irish social housing field. It explores how individuals utilise various forms of identity work to sustain credible occupational identities, often in the face of considerable challenge from their academically qualified colleagues (in the area of architecture and surveying and so on). It focuses on the importance of communities of practice and legitimate peripheral participation in allowing a coherent professional identity to emerge. The centrality of caring and cared-for citizen is highlighted and the importance of flexibility and responsiveness is noted, as social housing professionals struggle to care for their clients within the highly bureaucratic system of local authority structures.
The nature of education and training that professionals in public sectors (such as social housing) need, to gain capacity and professionalism in this specialised field is explored. The role of academic qualifications is analysed in terms of career progression, experiences and recognition of housing professionals. Key actors in the field give a structural and cultural context for reflecting and considering future possibilities for education provision in this area (through interviews). A new understanding of professionalism in housing emerges which involves challenging the nature of „expert‟ knowledge, a greater recognition of the importance of the caring 'self', and the personal qualities and responsiveness of the professional.
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