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Scottish apprenticeship scheme could provide routes into planning profession

Words: Laura Edgar
Apprenticeships / iStock-459082897

Opportunities to adapt and enhance existing provision to include a vocational/work-based learning programme would offer an immediate solution to developing routes into the planning profession, a report recommends.

This short to medium-term solution could be developed alongside a longer-term aspiration for a new apprenticeship scheme to support talent development.

The recommendations were set out in a report titled Skills in Planning Research Paper, which was commissioned by Skills Development Scotland (SDS) for Partners in Planning (PiP).

It lists a total of 25 recommendations on how to raise the profile of planning to attract more students and young people into the profession. It also identifies three key areas for action:

  • Promoting and raising awareness of planning.
  • Developing a ‘route map’ to ensure a sustainable supply of new entrants into the sector.
  • Developing skills within the workforce.

The report highlights that, “in contrast to the important role” it plays in the everyday lives of people, communities, businesses, planning is “relatively small”, with a workforce of around 1,600 employees across Scotland. In addition, there has been an estimated decline of 5 per since 2014, mainly driven by a decline in local government.

The sector is forecast to grow by 11 per cent by 2030, which equates to 130 additional planners, but it does face some short to medium-term challenges, such as an ageing workforce coupled with a lack of younger workers and graduates.

Considering local authorities, the report estimates that there is a need to replace 500 planners over the next 15 years. “In addition to the numbers that will need to be replaced through retirement, the majority of these will likely be senior and more experienced planners. This will potentially create a knowledge gap within the profession as this expertise and experience is lost (this will likely be most acutely felt within the public sector),” states the report.

Skills in Planning Research Paper acknowledges that planning has “not been immune” to the impact of Covid-19, but the strategic role that the planning sector can play in supporting the recovery needs to be agreed beyond the immediate challenges.

Craig McLaren, director of RTPI Scotland, which is a member of PiP, said: “I am very pleased that the report recognises the key role that the planning profession will play in supporting the post-Covid green recovery and in reaching the net-zero carbon targets. This needs new ways of making planning a career option for more people so I am delighted that it highlights the case for establishing planning apprenticeship programmes as a means of supporting this. We will work with others to see how best to take this forward.”  

Skills in Planning Research Paper can be found on the Partnership in Planning website.

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