Starting out as an apprentice: Caitlin Deller

Published on: 7 Mar 2017

Caitlin Deller [square]In celebration of it being National Apprenticeship Week (6-10 March), The Planner spoke to Caitlin Deller, who is taking part in the RTPI’s apprenticeship scheme.

Caitlin is undertaking her apprenticeship at Brighton and Hove City Council and attends college one day a week. The apprenticeship is for two years, and ends in September 2018.  

So, how did she get her role and what kind of work she does she do? The Planner found out.

1. Where did you see the apprenticeship role advertised and what made you want apply for it?

“I found this job on the Brighton and Hove City Council jobs website. I had heard of planning before so once I saw it I researched it a little more. Once I read up about it I knew that it would be something I would enjoy, so I applied for the job.”

2. What does the job entail - what sort of work are you doing?

“At the beginning of my job role, I worked in the planning admin team for around six to seven months to get an idea of the different stages that planning applications go through.

“I have recently moved into the applications team and I am doing the work and have the job role of an ‘assistant planning officer’. I have my own load of planning applications and have been on site regularly in order to make my recommendations for my applications. I have mainly been dealing with householder applications (single-storey rear/side extensions, windows/doors, roof lights, etc.) and listed building consents.

“I have recently been given a couple of full planning applications, including two storey extensions and canopies to shops. This involves going out on site for the applications, writing up notes, making a recommendation and then typing up the report."

3. What kind of work do your studies involve?

"I am studying for a level three planning qualification and go to college every Tuesday. We have done a couple of projects so far – the first project involved designing a garden room/summer house that could be built under permitted development. This helped me gain a lot of information on this area and has helped me in my practical work in the office.

“We are now working on a project called ‘sustainable construction’, which involves designing a classroom that has to have sustainable features such as solar panels, double glazing and ground source heat pumps.

“We have been learning about the building/construction side of things and also been using CAD (computer-aided-design) and other design programmes a lot which, although I would probably not use in my current daily job, is really useful to have as I am able to gain the knowledge on all of the different sides of what contributes to the planning process."

4. What sort of supervision and support do you get?

"I have been supported by a lot of planning officers and they all offered to come with me on my first few site visits and help me to write my reports. After a few site visits, I am now confident enough to go out on my own and am gaining a lot of knowledge on writing reports.

“I have weekly case reviews with my manager and he helps me with my applications by offering advice on the application, helping make my recommendation and what to look out for when I go on site.

“I have a mentor at work who I can also go to for advice on both planning and general things, so if I need help I can go to either my manager or my mentor.”

5. Were you looking for a job/career in planning?

"In my previous college I studied a two-year childcare course, which after completing, I found was not ideally something that I wanted to pursue a career in.

“I was looking for an apprenticeship in an office-based environment, so once I saw this it was perfect. I have always loved design and being creative; somewhat this job has incorporated into. I really enjoy looking at the different plans and designs, and being able to help contribute to this is a really good opportunity.

“I didn’t know about going out on site, so when I found that out it was an added bonus as it gives me a chance to get out of the office every now and again.

“I knew a little about planning permission, but I didn’t know a whole lot. However, having been here for seven months, I know that it is something I really enjoy and I am glad to have found a job that I am not just doing for finance reasons.

6. Is it what you expected it to be?

“As I only knew a little about planning, I didn’t know what the whole job would entail. My first day was learning some basic things like what the department does, which helped a lot as then I knew what actually happens.

“When working in admin, I didn’t know how planning officers worked, but I knew a lot about the admin side of things. Now, working and doing a planning officer job role, I have gained a lot of knowledge on this too. It has been really helpful working in the different stages of admin and now the applications team, as if something goes wrong on admin’s side and it affects my application, I can resolve it myself as I have the knowledge on what to do.”

7. What are your next steps?

"In a couple of months I will be moving to the enforcement team – the side of the department that deals with any lawful issues to do with planning (building without permission, building something that does not match the application’s plans, etc.). After three months working in that area, I have the option to choose which one I want to do for the rest of my apprenticeship, planning (development control) or enforcement.

“Once my apprenticeship is completed, there is a possible chance of an assistant planning/enforcement officer job vacancy, which I would like to get into. I am hoping to pursue a career in planning, and am very grateful for the opportunity that has been given to me.”


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

The RTPI is also working with employers to develop a Chartered Town Planner degree apprenticeship. If you are interested in being part of the Trailblazer group or employing apprentices on the new standard once it is in delivery, please contact: