Starting out as an apprentice: Ella Hammond
As part of National Apprenticeship Week (4-8 March), The Planner spoke to Ella Hammond, who studied the RTPI Town Planning Technical Support apprenticeship at Bridgwater and Taunton College. The course finished in September 2018.
Ella works as an assistant strategic planner at Bovis Homes.
Q. Where did you see the apprenticeship role advertised and what made you apply for it?
A: Before I started the Town Planning Technical Support apprenticeship, I was already working for Bovis Homes as an administrator for the strategic planning department, following the completion of two business administration apprenticeships with the company. I was interested in planning and knew that I wanted to progress my career further. My line manager is a member of the RPTI and found details of the Town Planning Technical Support apprenticeship on the RTPI website.
The opportunity to develop my planning knowledge whilst gaining on-the-job experience was a no brainer for me! Over the two-year apprenticeship course, I was a strategic planning and development co-ordinator, an administrative role supporting the strategic land team, which covers the whole of the business’s operating area (national).
Q: What does the job entail – what sort of work are you doing?
A: My job involves assisting the strategic planners in the team with promoting sites of 100 homes to 3,000+ homes through the local plan process; assisting with the preparation of major planning applications; coordinating the appointment and management of specialist consultant teams; and assessing the planning prospects of new land opportunities for the business.
Q: What kind of work do your studies involve?
A: The Town Planning Technical Support apprenticeship was made up of two qualifications: BTEC and NVQ.
The BTEC part of the apprenticeship was covered by 12 units ranging from health and safety in construction and planning policy to personal professional development and topographical surveying. Each unit was achieved by completing one or two assignments. Writing assignments enabled me to develop my written communication skills that I could put into practice at work.
The NVQ part is an on-the-job based assessment which required you to submit copies of actual work as evidence that you have achieved the NVQ criteria. In addition, observation assessments were carried out where the tutor would visit you in your place of work and assess your daily tasks against the criteria for the NVQ units.
Q: What sort of supervision and support do you get?
A: I attended college for one day every two weeks. The tutor gave us the necessary information on various topics to enable us to complete assessments; set out the requirements for each assignment; and set deadlines to keep us on track led the class. The tutor was available on email and by phone on the remaining days to provide us with additional support.
Within Bovis Homes, I work alongside practicing chartered planners who provided me with additional support and supervision when completing college work and assistance with day-to-day planning tasks. Bovis Homes has an internal learning and development team who have given me support and supervision during my studies.
I also had huge support from the other students within the class. The class was made up of students varying in age, experience and backgrounds ranging from public sector planning officers to strategic planners for housebuilders to small planning consultancies. The assignments varied on topic and others who had more experienced in a certain job or sector would help others who didn’t.
Q: Were you looking for a job / career in planning?
A: I had completed two business administration apprenticeships with Bovis Homes which enabled me to experience different departments within a large organisation. The strategic planning department was where I found a particular interest and could envisage a clear route for progression. Working as an administrator, I had a long-term goal to progress into a planning role.
Q: Is it what you expected it to be?
A: The apprenticeship was more in depth than I had expected it to be. As it was a level 3 qualification, I expected it to be more of an introduction to planning but instead it delved into most aspects of planning and analysed planning law and policy which helped huge amounts when it came to practicing planning at work.
Q: What are your next steps?
A: Following my apprenticeship, I have been promoted to Assistant Strategic Planner. I aim to complete a university course at degree level to develop my planning knowledge further and also give me a higher-level qualification to assist me in progressing to the next level of my career. After my successful experience of the Town Planning Technical Support apprenticeship I would be keen to move onto the planning degree apprenticeship that the RTPI are currently developing.
In the long-term I aim to become a RTPI chartered planner which I hope to apply for once I have gained a degree qualification and enough experience as a planner.
Q: Do you have any advice for people looking for apprenticeships, or seeking a role in planning?
A: My advice for people looking for apprenticeships or seeking a role in planning is to research all options that are available to you and find one that best suits your needs. The RTPI website is helpful as it shows clear progression routes to becoming a chartered planner. Bovis Homes career web-page is a useful example of the many different roles/career paths within one organisation.
Information about RTPI apprenticeship schemes can be found on the institute's website.