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Starting out as an apprentice: Oliver Brown

Published on: 1 Mar 2018

Oliver Brown / supplied  [square]In celebration of it being National Apprenticeship Week (5-9 March), The Planner spoke to Oliver Brown, who is taking part in the RTPI’s apprenticeship scheme.

Oliver is undertaking his apprenticeship as a planning assistant, at Chichester District Council and attends Chichester College.

Q: Where did you see the apprenticeship role advertised and what made you apply for it?

A: I came across the apprenticeship role advertised on the government apprenticeship website. A combination of a factors inspired me to apply; the role read well, sounding both stimulating and rewarding in both academic learning and the workplace role. I had come to realise my strengths did not lie in full-time academic studying and so this offered a perfect balance between study and work.

Q: What does the job entail - what sort of work are you doing?

A: The job offers a varied workload comprised of many aspects of planning. Much of my work revolves around customer service and planning queries, helping members of the public and small businesses in applying for planning permission. I also have a small case load of applications for which I must undertake site visits, assess proposals and construct reports based around our development policies. Applications cover a range of different areas including households, commercial, listed buildings and tree work, providing a broad spectrum of challenges requiring different skills. 

Q: What kind of work do your studies involve?

A: Studies have provided a base covering the planning system, its legislative background and how it fits into our economy. These areas have been broken down into units which are assessed by coursework, with various tasks set, including designing and producing plans for buildings, conducting a site survey and recording the results, and other more research based pieces. Additionally, we work towards a practical qualification which is work based. We must record and demonstrate a wide variety of skills and knowledge which is assessed externally. 

Q: What sort of supervision and support do you get?

A: Support and supervision have been provided in abundance in my role. I have been mentored through the various aspects of the job by my colleagues and have regular 1:1 sessions where I can seek advice and support on my caseload and any queries/problems I might have. Further to this, we have an appraisal system that aims to help both myself and my managers identify areas in which I can improve and progress in my role, including any training opportunities. 

Q: Were you looking for a job/career in planning?

A: When I began the process of looking for an apprenticeship, I had no intention of starting a career in planning. When I stumbled across the role on the government apprenticeship site, it piqued my interest and I researched further into the sector and subsequently applied for the role. 

Q: Is it what you expected it to be?

A: With no prior experience in planning I had little idea of what to expect from the role, however it has most definitely exceeded any expectations I had and has provided me with an engaging career that has helped me to grow on both a personal level and as a professional. The apprenticeship system suits me far better than full time academic study, providing not only an RTPI recognised level of qualification but also a wealth of experience, knowledge and skills that I can carry further into my career.

Q: What will your next steps be following your apprenticeship? When does it conclude?

A: I plan to remain at Chichester District Council after my apprenticeship has concluded in May of this year. I have been offered a position as planning assistant which I intend to accept and consider my options for further education, whether that be full time or part time studying towards a degree in planning. 

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

A: Prior to my apprenticeship role in planning, I had found it difficult to apply myself and felt consistently unrewarded by the process of full time education. This apprenticeship has made a marked improvement to my life, building my interpersonal and professional skills as well as providing a solid and expanding base of knowledge which I feel inspired to apply in the numerous areas of the role. I have not looked back since beginning my apprenticeship and I would wholeheartedly recommend an apprenticeship in planning to anybody considering one.  


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.