As part of National Apprenticeship Week (4-8 March), The Planner spoke to Rachael Scott, who is taking part in the RTPI’s apprenticeship scheme.
Rachael is undertaking her apprenticeship as a senior development support officer at Cornwall Council and attends Bridgwater and Taunton College.
Q: Where did you see the apprenticeship role advertised and what made you apply for it?
A: I came across details of the apprenticeship on the RTPI’s website. Having worked within the local planning authority’s planning and sustainable developments for over 10 years, I felt that it would be beneficial for my own development to undertake training and to gain a qualification relevant to the work I currently do. As the course is accredited by the RTPI, I have taken advantage of becoming a student member.
Q: What does the job entail – what sort of work are you doing?
A: My current role is in planning support and includes registering and validating applications, carrying out consultations, using mapping information, inputting and retrieving application data, checking permitted development rights, as well as dealing with general enquiries from members of the public, agents, external bodies and local members.
Q: What kind of work do your studies involve?
A: The apprenticeship framework consists of a BTEC Diploma and an ABBE NVQ. I attend college in Taunton one day a fortnight, and I am soon to start the NVQ-part of the course, which requires an assessor from the college to visit me in the workplace every couple of months and for me to produce evidence to show that I carry out tasks required by the specification of each unit. For the BTEC Diploma, we are taught at the college and carry out group activities which give us an understanding of the subject area. Assignments are set for each of the 12 units, and require individual research to produce reports and PowerPoint presentations; these are submitted electronically for my lecturer to review.
Q: What sort of supervision and support do you get?
A: In addition to my attendance at college, my employer allows me time to study for the course one day a fortnight, and my manager is supportive of me doing this. When I am not at college, my lecturer is contactable by phone or email if I have any problems or queries regarding the course or work that has been set. I receive feedback on the assignment submissions, and resources and text books are available through the college’s libraries and the student area of their website. It is likely that I will be required to shadow members of other teams, such as planning enforcement and building control in order to complete some parts of the unit requirements.
Q: Were you looking for a job / career in planning?
A: I have worked for the local planning authority for a number of years and am in a full-time support role. During this time I have had experience of determining planning applications and monitoring section 106 obligations through secondment opportunities with my employer. This has given me the chance to shadow other members of the team and provide me with a good understanding of the processes and considerations of applications.
Q: Is it what you expected it to be?
A: Having not attended college for about 15 years, I wasn’t sure what to expect or how much study time would be required; especially as I am also working full-time. The course covers a lot of aspects that relate to the construction industry as a whole, rather than to just the role of the planning service. We have covered subjects such as the planning framework and sustainable construction, which are relevant to the service I work in, but are not necessarily subjects that I would have the opportunity to look into in detail during my day-to-day role. The course requires a lot of studying and assignment work in my own time (more than I had expected), but I am now in the swing of being more disciplined at setting time aside to make sure my deadlines are met.
Q: What will your next steps be following your apprenticeship? When does it conclude?
A: It is a two-year course, due to finish in September 2020. I don’t have any definite plans to continue studying after this, but hope that the completion of the apprenticeship will provide me with the knowledge and experience to further my career if opportunities for progression arise.
Q: Do you have any advice for people looking for apprenticeships, or seeking a role in planning?
A: Apprenticeships allow you to earn whilst learning on the job and can be a great way to start or further your career. They cover a wide range of topics and provide you with the knowledge to further your professional development.
Information about RTPI apprenticeship schemes can be found on the institute's website.