For our next edition of our Homegrown Heroes series, we spoke to Eleanor, a Programme Officer within our Development team at Plymouth Community Homes (PCH).
Eleanor’s involvement with PCH began in 2016 when her family moved into a PCH home and she started to engage with our Communities team, taking part in resident involvement courses alongside her mum, Stacey.
During this time, Eleanor started to experience health issues but when she felt well enough, she helped Stacey with her resident involvement work on a voluntary basis.
After finishing school, Eleanor completed a one year health and social care course at Plymouth City College, and she attended Plumer House one day a week for four months to carry out work experience with PCH’s Communities team.
Eleanor then went on to complete an Extended Diploma in Art and Design alongside English, psychology and Japanese courses at Plymouth College of Art (now known as Arts University Plymouth) for two years, remaining involved with PCH throughout.
After carrying out another extended period of work experience in the Procurement team at PCH, including successfully presenting at a directorate meeting, Eleanor was encouraged to apply for the Programme Officer vacancy, and was successful at interview.
Eleanor West-Thomas said: “I started my role as a Programme Officer in the Development team in November 2022, after many years of resident involvement as a PCH resident, and long periods of work experience in different departments.
“In my role, I consolidate reports, maintain and update KPIs, support on work to acquire grant funding for schemes, assist in maintaining risk registers, support on work to resolve defects, engage with residents to seek feedback to help improve current PCH procedures, and work with both internal and external stakeholders. It’s certainly a mixed bag, but I am loving it.
“The team I work with are amazing, and although I have only been working at PCH for a short period of time, I am so much more confident. Having a routine has made such a difference to my life and I feel like I have a purpose.
“The residents I have worked with have been so lovely which makes all the difference to my work, and the office is a nice environment to be in. I feel so lucky that I get to work here.
“I will always be grateful for PCH as visiting Plumer House and joining in with the resident involvement work really benefitted me. I felt extremely anxious due to the lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic, but being at Plumer House helped me to get over the anxiety I faced.
“When I started my job, I was worried about my health affecting my role, but it has never been a problem and it has been so easily accepted. I have never experienced that anywhere else before.
“My involvement with PCH has benefited me so much, and I am so grateful for being acknowledged; I would not be here today without that.”
Staff in the Communities team continue to be grateful for Eleanor’s voluntary contributions during her time at PCH, and said her input is still used by the team today.
Helen Ryan, Head of Communities & Housing with Support, said: “Ellie was our youngest ever participant in a resident scrutiny process and she worked hard to attend and contribute around her college course commitments. She brought a valuable and considered younger person’s perspective to the process, made really useful suggestions for improvements, and her infectious smile and warm personality lifted everyone she worked with!
“From her first involvement, it was clear that Ellie is special. Talented and mature, thoughtful and creative, she has a fantastic career ahead of her and we’re lucky that she’s chosen to work at PCH.”
Andrew Lawrie, Head of Development at PCH and Eleanor’s line manager, is delighted that she is now part of his team and says she is thriving in her current position.
Andrew said: “Ellie is enthusiastic and a quick learner who in short order mastered preparing complicated development KPI reports for both PCH’s Development Committee and Board. Already Ellie has successfully processed millions of pounds of grant funding for various new build projects.
“Development is not all about money and property. She also brings a fresh perspective to the resident surveys we use, and to help with arranging the annual resident design conference led by PCH in partnership with a range of other regional housing associations.”