In celebration of it being National Apprenticeship Week (5-9 March), The Planner spoke to Emily Anderson, who is taking part in the RTPI’s apprenticeship scheme.
Emily is undertaking her apprenticeship as a trainee planner/planning and technician apprenticeat Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) and attends Moulton College.
Q: Where did you see the apprenticeship role advertised and what made you apply for it?
A: I was initially planning to go to university to study Geography and Geology, with the hope of graduating and getting a job as a planner. I was scouring the LCC website one evening to see if there were any planning jobs available- to gain some knowledge of the pay, experience required and how readily available the jobs are.
I then came across this apprenticeship, a perfect combination of work, experience, pay and learning! To me, it was a no brainer. The prospect of job searching after university with no experience combined with three years having no guaranteed income was frightening. After sending off the application form I began to realise that university wasn’t the only path to explore. University seemed expected and inevitable, but going against the expected norm has enabled me at a young age to gain control of my own learning and steer it in the direction I am passionate about.
Q: What does the job entail - what sort of work are you doing?
A: I began working alongside the technician team. I was taught how to register applications, the documentation needed and how to use the GIS system to plot applications. As I gained my confidence I was able to shadow other technicians in validating applications, conversing with planning officers and learning how to manage a work load. Recently I have been able to shadow one of the senior planning officers to see where the application goes after the validation stage. This gave me the insight into why the technician's job is so important and the role they play. Throughout working with the planning team I have had the opportunity to take part in wider projects. I have had the exciting opportunity to work on a modular housing project which has given me the ability to conduct my own research and meet modular enthusiasts!
Q: What kind of work do your studies involve?
A: When at college I learn about wider topics which I don’t necessarily think about in my everyday work life. However for example, we have just finished a module on building regulations, something that I didn't know anything about and which isn't really involved in my job. Since learning about legislation and documentation of the building regulations I am able to thoroughly read plans, question structure, practicability and flag any initial problems. The modules at college so far have all integrated into my job and enhanced my work, something that I didn't expect after looking at the module titles.
Q: What sort of supervision and support do you get?
A: Since day one I have had support from everyone in the planning team. I have been given 'mentors' that I can go to for queries with certain work and I have regular meetings with my manager to discuss anything else on my mind. I will be honest, entering a workplace with little experience or knowledge was absolutely terrifying. The best advice given to me on the first day by fellow colleagues was “there is no such thing as a silly question”. This gave me the confidence to ask when unsure, give myself credit when due and do further reading where needed.
Q: Is it what you expected it to be?
A: My apprenticeship has been everything I expected it to be and more. I didn't comprehend the amount of support I would receive and the experience I would pick up in a matter of weeks. Being fully immersed in the job is undoubtedly the best way to learn - you just need to take the plunge! The information and top tips shared with me are things I could have never learnt at university. I have stepped into a job that I dreamt of getting after university - one that is willing to provide and support me through my training and qualifications.
Q: What will your next steps be following your apprenticeship? When does it conclude?
A: I am currently waiting to apply for the five-year RTPI accredited degree course which is due to be running by September. I have the support from my manager and feel ready to combine work with this qualification to achieve my chartered status. I hope to continue progressing with LCC. I am very excited for what my future holds and now know that I can choose where I want it to go.
Q: Do you have any advice for people looking for apprenticeships, or seeking a role in planning?
A: Go for it. My biggest fear was missing out on the experience of university. However, I have gained three extra years of work experience and a salary (and the ability to visit friends at university across the country whenever I want!).
Going to college and meeting people similar to me has given me the perfect student and working life balance. I would not change my decision for the world and cannot thank the team at LCC enough for their support. If you want something enough and this opportunity is available to you - do not waste it. University does not have to be your path.
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.