In celebration of it being National Apprenticeship Week (5-9 March), The Planner spoke to Ellie Yarham, who is taking part in the RTPI’s apprenticeship scheme.
Ellie is undertaking her apprenticeship as a planning assistant, at Broadland District Council and attends Chichester College.
Q: Where did you see the apprenticeship role advertised and what made you apply for it?
A: The apprenticeship was advertised on the RTPI website and as I was already working in the planning department, I was familiar with previously delivered apprenticeship schemes of this type so was looking for the next available scheme. Myself and 10 others are currently part of our cohort Norfolk/Suffolk apprentices. I wanted to apply as it would allow me to progress through my career. Since starting the course, I have worked as a planning technician in the development management team of the planning department at Broadland District Council in Norfolk. I am hoping to progress my studies and career further on completion of this apprenticeship.
Q: What does the job entail – what sort of work are you doing?
A: I provide support for planners through administrative, technical and practical work as well as having a case load of planning applications and enquiries. I mainly deal with householders, advertisements, permitted development applications and enquiries. I will also attend site to assess the impacts the proposal would have on the surrounding area and neighbouring properties.
Q: What kind of work do your studies involve?
A: My studies range across many different aspects. This can be from health and safety on a construction site and workplace, to topographical surveying of a piece of land and buildings. By completing an apprenticeship, you are mainly studying all the time as you are learning and working at the same time. When we attend college, we can be classroom based with a variety of lecturers or outside completing a number of different surveys.
Q: What sort of supervision and support do you get?
A: At work, my manager gives me lots of support in my day job. This can be a weekly run through of case loads to quick questions. Support also comes from other members of my team who will answer any questions I have about my work. At college, our main tutor is our first point of call for any questions about the work we have been given. We also have a number of other members of staff around the college who help and provide us with support. This can be from finding us accommodation when we arrive at Chichester, and supporting us with lectures and equipment for what we need to be doing.
Q: Were you looking for a job / career in planning?
A: I was looking to progress my career in planning as I was working within the administration team for a number of years before this opportunity came up. I enjoyed working with the officers providing administrational support on a daily basis so was looking to progress toward a role within development management at the same time as keeping a role within the same workplace. The apprenticeship became available and seemed the most suitable option.
Q: Is it what you expected it to be?
A: Yes. From having experience within the planning department prior to the apprenticeship commencing I was aware of what the job entailed. No day is the same. One day I can have several sites to visit including farms, residential properties or a commercial premises; the next I can have several meetings with clients regarding their applications. No two extensions are the same which makes this interesting.
Q: What will your next steps be following your apprenticeship? When does it conclude?
A: My current apprenticeship should finish around summer/autumn 2018, and I am hoping to stay in my current employment as a planning technician and then complete the trailblazer apprenticeship degree, which will hopefully be released summer/autumn 2018 and be delivered by the same learning provider.
Q: Do you have any advice for people looking for apprenticeships, or seeking a role in planning?
A: Always look on the RTPI website for opportunities that may come up. They have some great advice on where to apply for qualifications in planning and accredited courses. Gaining work experience in a planning department or private firm is crucial to ensure you wish to pursue a career in planning.
Information about RTPI apprenticeship schemes can be found on the institute's website.
The final elements of a degree level Chartered Town Planner apprenticeship scheme for England have been submitted to government for approval. The RTPI hopes a number of accredited Planning Schools will offer it later this year, with more ready for 2019.