Log in | Register

Career development: Supporting planning in schools


Volunteering to foster interest in planning in schools can be both professionally and personally rewarding. Martha Harris looks at education programmes that planners can deliver

We continue to see new talent enter the profession each year, but we’re all familiar with the relative paucity of knowledge about planning careers in schools. How do we inform young people about planning and get them excited about careers in the profession?

The RTPI Future Planners programme is one such initiative that aims to foster interest in planning among 11-18 year olds and supports students studying planning at university, some of whom can apply for an RTPI Future Planners Bursary (see below). The programme involves volunteer RTPI Ambassadors visiting careers fairs and schools to engage pupils in discussions about what the planning profession involves, and how to become a town planner. 

Ambassadors can also deliver other planning careers and education initiatives that are supported by the RTPI, including Urban Plan UK, from the Urban Land Institute, and Property Needs You, a joint scheme by the RTPI, Changing the Face of Property, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and the Reading Real Estate Foundation.

Since the Future Planners programme was launched in 2014, ambassadors have visited more than 200 schools and careers events across the UK and Ireland. They have given presentations, led lesson activities, and taken part in careers fairs. 

Is their work having an impact? Three ambassadors tell their stories. 

Lindsay Frost

Director at Lindsay Frost Consulting 

“I had retired from a senior post in local government and set up as a private consultant, and I was looking for volunteer work that would allow me to give back to the profession. That’s how I became involved in the Urban Plan initiative.

“Urban Plan gets sixth-formers working in teams to tackle the financial, design, ethical and environmental challenges involved in property development in a day-long exercise, with property professionals prompting the students as they work up a development proposal.
“The students like the way the exercise shows the real-life challenges of balancing different objectives in achieving a successful and sustainable property development. In the media, planning is often shown as negative and bureaucratic, so it’s good to show that it can be about being creative and solving problems.

“It’s so important to teach children and young adults about planning because it affects many of the key things in life; getting a home, getting a job, how you spend your leisure time, how you travel, how you feel about the place you live and how you can help shape its future. It’s odd that the education curriculum doesn’t seem to directly address these important points.

“Volunteering is an opportunity for personal development and adding experience beyond the day job. It also allows you to help improve the profession’s image.”

Jenna Langford

Planning regeneration officer at Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

“The careers advice I received at school was very poor – it was an experience that stuck with me, and has driven me to help young people when they are considering their futures. 

“Planning, like many other professions, is a function that is unfortunately taken for granted. Most people aren’t aware of the extent to which our environment is planned, or of the delicate balances at play in order to ensure a sustainable world. Engaging young people and raising awareness provides the opportunity to harness their creativity, and encourages them to think about their environment and how it can be improved.

“It can be a daunting prospect, but over the two years I have been an ambassador I have found the young people I’ve worked with to be very appreciative. They are particularly interested in what planners are doing in their area, how they are influencing the places they use and what is being planned for the future.

“The experience has led to my being able to arrange work experience for some young people, and being invited by schools to present geography awards, which is incredibly rewarding. The work that we do as ambassadors also demonstrates passion for and commitment to the profession, develops your presentation skills.” 


Future Planners 

The Future Planners Bursary fund, launched in June 2015, allows graduates from any discipline to apply for a £1,000 award if they enrol on an accredited University Masters course in town planning. tinyurl.com/futureplannersbursary

RTPI partner educational initiatives
Property Needs You is a UK-wide joint initiative from the RTPI, Changing the Face of Property, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and the Reading Real Estate Foundation that works with parents, teachers and careers advisers to help young people understand opportunities available in the property sector.

Developed by the Urban Land Institute, Urban Plan UK is a “realistic, engaging, and academically demanding” classroom programme in which students learn about the forces that affect urban regeneration.

Tunde Adebutu

Managing director at Neuber Limited

“I was lucky enough to have a planner I looked up to when I was training. I have always been grateful for the experience, and wanted to give back.

“I’m keen to help where possible and I have mostly been deployed to help at careers events, where we offer information on how town planning could be a great career option. 
“Recently, I’ve been involved with Property Needs You – an initiative that helps to create pathways for students into property-oriented professions.

“Some students come well informed about the profession and want to explore their options further, others have enjoyed studying a related subject and are wondering what they can do with it – and there are some that have no idea what town planning is. Your job is to give them the information that is relevant to their situation. Essentially, it’s about selling your profession – people want to know more if they see you are genuinely passionate about what you’re saying.

“Many young people don’t naturally think of town planning as a career path, so it’s important to provide good information at an early stage to help them make better-informed career choices and attract a broader range of people to the profession.

“I’ve had great experiences volunteering, including seeing a student I’d mentored through the APC process become fully chartered. Professionally, it has developed my communication skills and taught me how to be patient – valuable career attributes and a good addition to my CPD.”


Becoming an RTPI Ambassador

Participation in the programme contributes towards annual CPD requirements and can help build links between education providers and employers. If you are an RTPI member and you can spare a few hours each year, get involved by signing up online at: www.rtpi.org.uk/ambassadors

The Ambassadors Toolkit
The RTPI has created an ‘Ambassadors Toolkit’ to provide a ‘self-service’ approach to participation to enable ambassadors to volunteer in the way that best suits them. It includes:

  • Suggestions of volunteer activity;
  • Ways to form links with schools;
  • Downloadable resources; and Advice on ways to engage pupils. 

The toolkit is available from January 2017 at www.rtpi.org.uk/ambassadors (email: [email protected])