Volunteering to foster interest in planning in schools can be both professionally and personally rewarding. Martha Harris looks at education programmes that planners can deliver.
We continue to see new talent enter the profession each year, but we’re all familiar with the relative paucity of knowledge about planning careers in schools. How do we inform young people about planning and get them excited about careers in the profession?
The RTPI Future Planners programme is one such initiative that aims to foster interest in planning among 11-18 year olds and supports students studying planning at university, some of whom can apply for an RTPI Future Planners Bursary (see below). The programme involves volunteer RTPI Ambassadors visiting careers fairs and schools to engage pupils in discussions about what the planning profession involves, and how to become a town planner.
Ambassadors can also deliver other planning careers and education initiatives that are supported by the RTPI, including Urban Plan UK, from the Urban Land Institute, and Property Needs You, a joint scheme by the RTPI, Changing the Face of Property, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and the Reading Real Estate Foundation.
Since the Future Planners programme was launched in 2014, ambassadors have visited more than 200 schools and careers events across the UK and Ireland. They have given presentations, led lesson activities, and taken part in careers fairs.
Is their work having an impact? Jenna Langford tells her story.
Planning regeneration officer at Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
“The careers advice I received at school was very poor – it was an experience that stuck with me, and has driven me to help young people when they are considering their futures.
“Planning, like many other professions, is a function that is unfortunately taken for granted. Most people aren’t aware of the extent to which our environment is planned, or of the delicate balances at play in order to ensure a sustainable world. Engaging young people and raising awareness provides the opportunity to harness their creativity, and encourages them to think about their environment and how it can be improved.
“It can be a daunting prospect, but over the two years I have been an ambassador I have found the young people I’ve worked with to be very appreciative. They are particularly interested in what planners are doing in their area, how they are influencing the places they use and what is being planned for the future.
“The experience has led to my being able to arrange work experience for some young people, and being invited by schools to present geography awards, which is incredibly rewarding. The work that we do as ambassadors also demonstrates passion for and commitment to the profession, develops your presentation skills.”
The Future Planners Bursary fund, launched in June 2015, allows graduates from any discipline to apply for a £1,000 award if they enrol on an accredited University Masters course in town planning.
RTPI partner educational initiatives
Property Needs You is a UK-wide joint initiative from the RTPI, Changing the Face of Property, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and the Reading Real Estate Foundation that works with parents, teachers and careers advisers to help young people understand opportunities available in the property sector.
Developed by the Urban Land Institute, Urban Plan UK is a “realistic, engaging, and academically demanding” classroom programme in which students learn about the forces that affect urban regeneration.
Becoming an RTPI Ambassador
Participation in the programme contributes towards annual CPD requirements and can help build links between education providers and employers. If you are an RTPI member and you can spare a few hours each year, get involved by signing up online at: www.rtpi.org.uk/ambassadors
The Ambassadors Toolkit
The RTPI has created an ‘Ambassadors Toolkit’ to provide a ‘self-service’ approach to participation to enable ambassadors to volunteer in the way that best suits them. It includes:
- Suggestions of volunteer activity;
- Ways to form links with schools;
- Downloadable resources; and
- Advice on ways to engage pupils.
The toolkit is available on the RTPI website.
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