Career change Q&A: Jenna Langford
You don’t have to start your career as a planner to become a planner. Jenna Langford, planning and regeneration officer at Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council talks about how she found her route into planning
What did you study previously?
I graduated with a degree in art and design in 2005, when there were very limited job opportunities in the design sector. Changing tack, I took evening classes in business administration, eventually finding a job as the secretary to the housing strategy manager at Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council (SMBC).
I then trained as a project management officer and helped to manage a major regeneration scheme in West Bromwich. SMBC later offered to fund my studies to allow me to work towards becoming a planning officer.
What is your current job?
I am now a planning officer in the SMBC Planning Regeneration team. I’m currently working on bringing several brownfield sites forward for residential development. I facilitate development by identifying suitable sites and providing planning support to land owners and developers. In practice, I found the creative vision that I had developed through my art studies went hand in hand with the crux of a planner’s duties.
What attracted you to planning?
Entering the planning arena through an administration role, I realised that I wanted more scope to influence decision making. Planners have the ability to mould better places, to raise the aspirations and improve the quality of life of those who live there.
How did you find your route into planning?
Luck! I wasn’t even aware that planning as a career existed until I began working in local government. I received poor advice from careers advisers early on in my education, which is partly why I now volunteer for the RTPI Future Planners Initiative as an ambassador and I am the regional co-ordinator for the West Midlands. I am passionate about promoting career opportunities to young people as well as the excellent work planners do in shaping our world.
What advice would you give to people that are hoping to get into planning?
Start by attending local council planning committee meetings, which are open to the public and will give you an insight into planning and its political dimensions.