Starting out as an apprentice: Emma Chapman

Published on: 7 Mar 2017

Emma Chapman [square]In celebration of it being National Apprenticeship Week (6-10 March), The Planner spoke to Emma Chapman, an apprentice planner taking part in the RTPI’s apprenticeship scheme.

Emma is undertaking her apprenticeship at Hertfordshire County Council with the minerals and waste policy team. She studies one day a week at Oaklands College in Welwyn Garden City.

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

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

“I came across Hertfordshire County Council’s apprenticeship scheme on their website. At the time I applied to the scheme, the planning apprenticeship was not available. A few months later, I interviewed for the business admin apprenticeship scheme, was successful, however shortly after I was sent an email asking if I’d be interested in interviewing for a planning apprenticeship. The planning apprenticeship immediately caught my attention; it offered me a really exciting opportunity as well as a challenge. I didn’t hesitate to apply.”

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

“My job primarily involves me contributing towards and supporting the work of my team. Over the past few weeks I have been on site visits and attended meetings as well as checking the weekly planning application lists from one of the districts in the country.

"I look for applications that may raise issues and concerns regarding mineral and waste matters. If I find any I will then respond with the comments that the county council, as the minerals and waste planning authority, would like to make.

“I have also been learning about sustainability appraisals and our existing Site Selection Methodology and how and what will happen as it gets updated and I have been out with another team to assist in their annual monitoring survey, which looks at the implementation of planning permissions.”

3. What kind of work do your studies involve?

“I am studying towards a level three town planning technician qualification, over the duration of my apprenticeship, which is two year.

“My qualification is part BTEC and part NVQ. The BTEC side covers all my coursework/ assignments and the NVQ is work based. This involves my assessor coming out to my place of work to see if I am meeting all the requirements from the NVQ - for example, can I operate technical information systems in planning and can I organise consultation and community engagement in planning.

“Since starting in September, my assignments have covered: sustainable construction, planning procedures and the development control framework, planning legislation and the planning application."

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

“We have weekly team meetings where I am able to discuss work I have completed during the week and what tasks to do next.

“I have regular one to ones with my manager and get support from all members of my team. If I have any questions I feel I can ask any of them. Also I have a support from all the other apprentices, we meet monthly for network meetings to discuss what’s happening in our roles and any concerns we may have.”

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

“I was looking for an apprenticeship that would offer me a challenge. I knew I wanted to learn something completely new and find the opportunity that was right for me. I was constantly searching for the right apprenticeship and the planning apprenticeship offered me everything I was looking for.”

6. Is it what you expected it to be?

“I am really enjoying my apprenticeship as every day I learn something new. I have a really encouraging and supportive team who are always there to help.

“It’s so much more than I expected- there is so much to learn and I have such a long way to go, but that’s what excites me.

“One of the best things about my role so far is being able to get out on site visits. It enables me to see first-hand what it is that I’m learning about. I’ve been on site visits to sand and gravel quarries, a chalk quarry and a landfill site. I have been out with the enforcement team, which gave me a better understanding of what the team does. I have also been able to help out with monitoring surveys that looked at the implementation of planning permissions.”

7. The apprenticeship ends in September 2018, what are your next steps?

"At the end of my apprenticeship I hope to continue onto a higher level apprenticeship and to continue working in planning (in the minerals and waste policy team) if a position is available when the time comes."

8. Do you have any advice for people looking for apprenticeships, or seeking a role in planning?

“If anyone is looking to get into planning I would definitely recommend doing an apprenticeship if the opportunity is there. Having the option to work and study at the same time has so many benefits. There’s so much to learn and going to college allows you to cover areas that you may not get the chance to at work or at the same time, it can be really beneficial to your work.

“For people looking for an apprenticeship, I would say always keep your eyes peeled and make sure you find the one that’s right for you. Apprenticeships are much more popular than they used to be and different opportunities are coming up all the time.”


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: