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05/03/2019

Career development: Studying the planning apprenticeship

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Planning apprenticeships / iStock-1070271838

As part of National Apprenticeship Week (4-8 March), The Planner spoke to three 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.

Alex Smith, planning technician at Sedgemore District Council, is studying at Bridgwater and Taunton College.

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

A: I found the apprenticeship advertised on the government apprenticeship website, the role advertised sounded interesting being both academic and work place based. I was intending to carry on to study A-Levels but also wanted to explore other avenues.

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

A: The job entails carrying out site visits, collating the planning data, report writing, liaising with members of the public with their planning applications. These applications can cover households, listed buildings and conservation issues.

Q: Is it what you expected it to be?

A: The role is more varied than I ever expected and I was surprised how quickly I picked up the role in a short period. The team members have all been very helpful in passing on their experience and knowledge.


Chris Angell, planning adviser at the Environment Agency, is studying at Bridgwater and Taunton College.

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

A: My team leader approached me with the opportunity and this was fully encouraged through the areas leadership team. Being relatively new to my role, the timing was perfect. Although I’d worked in the Environment Agency for five years I had only just begun my career in the planning team. I saw this as an opportunity to support my day job.

Q: What kind of work do your studies involve?

A: I am halfway through the second year of the Town and Country Planning Construction Apprenticeship. It’s a two-year course consisting of a BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Town Planning and the Awarding Body of the Built Environment (ABBE) NVQ Diploma in Town Planning for Technicians.

The BTEC element is covered within a fortnightly day-release college programme, whilst the NVQ is competency based and linked to the workplace. The majority of the modules are classroom taught with support materials available online. There are ongoing assessments spread out across each semester.

Q: Is it what you expected it to be?

A: The apprenticeship is proving very useful as I am able to use the knowledge directly in my day job and the assignments are relevant to the role. I feel this is giving me a broad understanding of the planning world and how the Environment Agency fits into it. Putting it into context really helps cement the learning. It’s been a real test for me to go back into classroom education after over 20 years; juggling assignments whilst managing an increasingly complex workload in my day job but I’m enjoying the challenge of learning new things in this environment.


Rachael Scott, a senior development support officer at Cornwall Council, attends Bridgwater and Taunton College.

Q: What kind of work do your studies involve?

A: The apprenticeship framework consists of a BTEC Diploma and an ABBE NVQ. I attend college in Taunton one day a fortnight, and I am soon to start the NVQ-part of the course, which requires an assessor from the college to visit me in the workplace every couple of months and for me to produce evidence to show that I carry out tasks required by the specification of each unit. For the BTEC Diploma, we are taught at the college and carry out group activities which give us an understanding of the subject area.  Assignments are set for each of the 12 units, and require individual research to produce reports and PowerPoint presentations; these are submitted electronically for my lecturer to review.   

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

A: In addition to my attendance at college, my employer allows me time to study for the course one day a fortnight, and my manager is supportive of me doing this. When I am not at college, my lecturer is contactable by phone or email if I have any problems or queries regarding the course or work that has been set. I receive feedback on the assignment submissions, and resources and text books are available through the college’s libraries and the student area of their website. It is likely that I will be required to shadow members of other teams, such as planning enforcement and building control in order to complete some parts of the unit requirements.

Q: Is it what you expected it to be?

A: Having not attended college for about 15 years, I wasn’t sure what to expect or how much study time would be required; especially as I am also working full-time. The course covers a lot of aspects that relate to the construction industry as a whole, rather than to just the role of the planning service. We have covered subjects such as the planning framework and sustainable construction, which are relevant to the service I work in, but are not necessarily subjects that I would have the opportunity to look into in detail during my day-to-day role.  The course requires a lot of studying and assignment work in my own time (more than I had expected), but I am now in the swing of being more disciplined at setting time aside to make sure my deadlines are met.


* These are abridged versions of interviews with Alex, Chris and Sarah. The full interviews are available on The Planner Jobs website.

Starting out as an apprentice: Alex Smith

Starting out as an apprentice: Chris Angell

Starting out as a apprentice: Rachael Scott


Future planners to be able to study degree-level apprenticeship

The first degree-level apprenticeship to train chartered town planners has been given the green light by the government.

The RTPI said employers in England will be able recruit candidates immediately to start the Level 7 Chartered Town Planner degree apprenticeship this autumn. Over 80 employers have expressed interest in employing apprentices and at least six universities are working to offer the apprenticeship from September 2019.

Read more here on The Planner.

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

Image credit | iStock

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