Chris is undertaking his apprenticeship as a planning adviser at the Environment Agency and attends Bridgwater and Taunton College.
Q: Where did you see the apprenticeship role advertised and what made you apply for it?
A: My team leader approached me with the opportunity and this was fully encouraged through the areas leadership team. Being relatively new to my role, the timing was perfect. Although I’d worked in the Environment Agency for five years I had only just begun my career in the planning team. I saw this as an opportunity to support my day job.
Q: What does the job entail – what sort of work are you doing?
A: I am a planning advisor in the sustainable places team for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. My team are split with half in Bodmin and I’m based in Exeter. We are key consultees in the planning process. We work to positively influence development proposals and strategic plans in order to create a better place for people and wildlife.
Q: What kind of work do your studies involve?
A: I am halfway through the second year of the Town and Country Planning Construction Apprenticeship. It’s a two-year course consisting of a BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Town Planning and the Awarding Body of the Built Environment (ABBE) NVQ Diploma in Town Planning for Technicians.
The BTEC element is covered within a fortnightly day-release college programme, whilst the NVQ is competency based and linked to the workplace. The majority of the modules are classroom taught with support materials available online. There are ongoing assessments spread out across each semester.
Q: What sort of supervision and support do you get?
A: Each fortnight a qualified tutor leads us through the course material with group discussion and interaction for an assignment, for example, on Sustainable Construction or Building Regulations or Topographic Surveying. Apart from the college based classes our tutor makes himself available offering support via email or Bridgwater Colleges online portal.
Q: Were you looking for a job / career in planning?
A: I wouldn’t say I was looking for a planning job as such, however I am more than happy that the culmination of my skills and interests have led me down this planning path. I couldn’t have planned the arrival of the apprenticeship better!
Q; Is it what you expected it to be?
A: The apprenticeship is proving very useful as I am able to use the knowledge directly in my day job and the assignments are relevant to the role. I feel this is giving me a broad understanding of the planning world and how the Environment Agency fits into it. Putting it into context really helps cement the learning. It’s been a real test for me to go back into classroom education after over 20 years; juggling assignments whilst managing an increasingly complex workload in my day job but I’m enjoying the challenge of learning new things in this environment.
Q: What will your next steps be following your apprenticeship? When does it conclude?
A: My course finished in June this year. At present I am exploring my options as to whether to continue after the apprenticeship and if so, what and where. Honestly, I have not decided yet but I am working on it.
Q: Do you have any advice for people looking for apprenticeships, or seeking a role in planning?
A: Make time to prioritise your college work and be realistic about time.
It’s been a learning curve rediscovering the pressures that external education brings but I’ve quite enjoyed this new discipline and discovering how much more I can achieve in my working week.
Information about RTPI apprenticeship schemes can be found on the institute's website.