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Planning ahead: The next generation


The key to a more diverse profession is to ensure that young people are aware of planning as a profession while still at school, says Freddie Bell

One of the things I tell most of the planners I meet is that if I had known about planning when at school, I would have studied it at university. I doubt I’m alone in this.

When we consider encouraging inclusivity and diversity in planning, we rightly highlight doing more to ensure that women, LGBTQ and people from minority backgrounds are better supported in the industry. But, from my angle, we miss a trick by not fully engaging with the next generation.

Unlike recruitment, you need a degree – often a master’s – to start in planning. Despite this, town planning is simply not a career path being talked about at school level.

Most younger planners I network with often studied geography initially as undergraduates and it’s here they discovered a passion for planning.

Though it’s fantastic to hear that many take this route, it’s not ideal for those, like me, who did a different bachelor’s degree and remained none the wiser to the existence of town planning until beginning my career elsewhere.

How can we address this problem? The obvious change that must happen is making the industry known to children when they’re still at school. Schools are often made up of a variety of people from different ethnicities, with different backgrounds and beliefs – all in one room and equal to one another.

"The obvious change that must happen is making the industry known to children when they're still at school"

By reaching out at this level we not only address the need to get the planning industry better understood, but we will also naturally reach out to a wide cross-section of society.

The second positive move we can make is better tying in planning with games and virtual reality. Games like SimCity and Run That Town are fantastic tools for getting young minds to consider the built environment and the impact we can make on it. Even the augmented reality in Pokémon GO is an easily accessible way for people to view  the architecture, buildings and city around them.

At national level the planning community needs to reinforce this with children by better helping them understand how they can turn their passion into a career. From my experience we’re an engaging industry; it will then be on us to provide time and resources to reach out the next generation.

There is no better time to make changes to this end than right now. The housing crisis is at the forefront in both national and local politics. The planning industry can do more to rise to this challenge; engaging with the next generation will not only aid with this, but will also help to ensure that we have a diverse make-up in the industry to cater for the whole population.

Freddie Bell is the senior consultant leading the planning and architecture team at Mattinson Partnership

Image | iStock


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