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? Lindsay Frost tells his story.
Director at Lindsay Frost Consulting
“I had retired from a senior post in local government and set up as a private consultant, and I was looking for volunteer work that would allow me to give back to the profession. That’s how I became involved in the Urban Plan initiative.
“Urban Plan gets sixth-formers working in teams to tackle the financial, design, ethical and environmental challenges involved in property development in a day-long exercise, with property professionals prompting the students as they work up a development proposal.
“The students like the way the exercise shows the real-life challenges of balancing different objectives in achieving a successful and sustainable property development. In the media, planning is often shown as negative and bureaucratic, so it’s good to show that it can be about being creative and solving problems.
“It’s so important to teach children and young adults about planning because it affects many of the key things in life; getting a home, getting a job, how you spend your leisure time, how you travel, how you feel about the place you live and how you can help shape its future. It’s odd that the education curriculum doesn’t seem to directly address these important points.
“Volunteering is an opportunity for personal development and adding experience beyond the day job. It also allows you to help improve the profession’s image.”
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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