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Career development: Planning apprentices

Studying / iStock_000039456960

As part of National Apprenticeship Week (5-9 March), The Planner spoke to four apprentices taking advantage of the RTPI’s apprenticeship scheme. We found out how they got their role and what kind of work they get up to as they study to become planners.

Emily Anderson, trainee planner/planning and technician apprentice, Lincolnshire County Council (LCC), studying at Moulton College

Q: Where did you see the apprenticeship role advertised and what made you apply for it?

A: I was initially planning to go to university to study Geography and Geology, with the hope of graduating and getting a job as a planner. I was scouring the LCC website one evening to see if there were any planning jobs available - to gain some knowledge of the pay, experience required and how readily available the jobs are.

I then came across this apprenticeship, a perfect combination of work, experience, pay and learning! To me, it was a no brainer. The prospect of job searching after university with no experience combined with three years having no guaranteed income was frightening. After sending off the application form I began to realise that university wasn’t the only path to explore. University seemed expected and inevitable, but going against the expected norm has enabled me at a young age to gain control of my own learning and steer it in the direction I am passionate about.

Q: What does the job entail - what sort of work are you doing?

A: I began working alongside the technician team. I was taught how to register applications, the documentation needed and how to use the GIS system to plot applications. As I gained my confidence I was able to shadow other technicians in validating applications, conversing with planning officers and learning how to manage a work load. Recently I have been able to shadow one of the senior planning officers to see where the application goes after the validation stage.  This gave me the insight into why the technician's job is so important and the role they play.

Q: Is the apprenticeship what you expected it to be?

A: My apprenticeship has been everything I expected it to be and more. I didn't comprehend the amount of support I would receive and the experience I would pick up in a matter of weeks. Being fully immersed in the job is undoubtedly the best way to learn- you just need to take the plunge! The information and top tips shared with me are things I could have never learnt at university! I have stepped into a job that I dreamt of getting after university - and one that is willing to provide and support me through my training and qualifications.

Caitlin Stokes, planning technician, strategy and development, Sedgemore District Council studying at Bridgewater College

Q: When did you complete your apprenticeship? What is your role at the council? What kind of work are you doing?

A: I’m still studying towards my qualifications with the aim to complete them by this summer. I have progressed on from my role of planning apprentice into a planning technician role for the council. This involves me registering planning applications, dealing with a small caseload of my own planning applications and providing general support for the development management team and enforcement team.

Q: What sort of supervision and support did you get?

A: As part of the apprenticeship I have attended college for one day every two weeks. As there isn’t much opportunity for 1:1 support outside of this day, our course leader ensures he’s available through email if we have any questions about a piece of work and all of the resources we need are available online for us to access. My tutor has been fantastic at teaching the course as he has a genuine interest in planning and makes sure our lessons are interactive. Our tutor often starts group discussions on more subjective issues in planning so we get lots of different perspectives.

Q: Do you have any advice for people looking for apprenticeships, or seeking a role in planning?

A: An apprenticeship is a really good way to find out what you’re interested in. When I first started I experienced working within lots of different teams and had a varied workload to help me decide what area I was most interested in and now I have a permanent role as a result. The advice I would give is to try and get experience in as many different teams as possible… and to not be afraid to ask a million questions!

Oliver Brown, planning assistant, development management, Chichester District Council, studying at Chichester College

Q: Where did you see the apprenticeship role advertised and what made you apply for it?

A: I came across the apprenticeship role advertised on the government apprenticeship website. A combination of factors inspired me to apply; the role read well, sounding both stimulating and rewarding in both academic learning and the workplace role. I had come to realise my strengths did not lie in full time academic studying and so this offered a perfect balance between study and work.

Q: What does the job entail - what sort of work are you doing?

A: Much of my work revolves around customer service and planning queries, helping members of the public and small businesses in applying for planning permission. I also have a small caseload of applications for which I must undertake site visits, assess proposals and construct reports based around our development policies. Applications cover a range of different areas including households, commercial, listed buildings and tree work, providing a broad spectrum of challenges requiring different skills.

Q: Were you looking for a job/career in planning?

A: When I began the process of looking for an apprenticeship, I had no intention of starting a career in planning. When I stumbled across the role on the government apprenticeship site, it piqued my interest and I researched further into the sector and subsequently applied for the role.

Ellie Yarham, planning technician, Broadland District Council, studying at Chichester College.

Q: What kind of work do your studies involve?

A: My studies can range from many different aspects. This can be from health and safety on a construction site and workplace, to topographical surveying a piece of land and buildings. By completing an apprenticeship, you are mainly studying all the time as you are learning and working at the same time. When we attend college, we can be classroom based with a variety of lecturers or outside completing a number of different surveys.

Q: Were you looking for a job / career in planning?

A: I was looking to progress my career in planning as I was working within the administration team for a number of years before this opportunity came up. I enjoyed working with the officers, providing administrational support on a daily basis so I was looking to progress towards a role within development management at the same time as keeping a role within the same workplace. The apprenticeship became available and seemed the most suitable option.

Q: Do you have any advice for people looking for apprenticeships, or seeking a role in planning?

A: Always look on the RTPI website for opportunities that may come up. They have some great advice on where to apply for qualifications in planning and accredited courses. Gaining work experience in a planning department or private firm is crucial to ensure you wish to pursue a career in planning.

* These are abridged interviews with Emily, Caitlin, Oliver and Ellie. The full interviews are available on The Planner Jobs website:

Starting out as an apprentice: Emily Anderson

Starting out as an apprentice: Caitlin Stokes

Starting out an an apprentice: Oliver Brown

Starting out as an apprentice: Ellie Yarham

Information about RTPI apprenticeship schemes can be found on the institute's website.

The final elements of a degree level Chartered Town Planner apprenticeship scheme for England have been submitted to government for approval. The RTPI hopes a number of accredited Planning Schools will offer it later this year, with more ready for 2019.

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