1. Please give an overview of your role and what this involves on a day-to-day basis:
Working within the Local Plans Team, day to day I: Respond to Planning Applications when consulted for a Local Plan/policy comment. Write and/or draft technical documents to support the Local Plan Write Policies which are used by DM colleagues when assessing planning applications. Respond to queries from colleagues, other departments within the Council, Councillors and also members of the public.
2. Have you learnt any new skills or developed existing skills?
I have developed numerous skills since working for Local Government. The ability to manage large workloads with significant time pressures has been developed. It is essential to ensure you keep on top of your workload whilst also trying to produce good quality pieces of work. I have also better my team working skills, as I am required to confer, negotiate, complete group based work projects and communicate effective messages to colleagues, members, and so on.
3. To what extent do you enjoy your programme?
I enjoy the ability to have one day a week to study and focus on the academic side to planning. That way, I have a greater contextual background to support my role as a planning officer day to day. It has met my expectations in regard to giving me greater knowledge and experience in planning, so that I can use this to try and make a positive difference in my area.
4. How well organised/structured is your programme?
The structure from university is clear, with each module requiring a different aspect of research in planning. However, the first semester was not as well organized as it could have been, given it was a newly set up apprenticeship. Due to this, we were placed in locations off campus. However, now the course is more established, structure has been much improved.
5. How much support do you receive from your employer?
Our employer supports us greatly. We are given one day a week to attend university, and outside of term time we are still given a day a week to support our learning. This way we are able to achieve our 20% off the job training. We are also given regular training sessions by our employer regarding different topics of planning, from Heritage Impact Assessments (HIA's), to affordable housing.
6. How much support do you receive from your training provider when working towards your qualifications?
Our training provider offers us the ability to contact our mentors/tutors/lecturers as and when necessary. Lecture slides and additional reading is always offered to supplement the lectures and seminars. However, given this is an apprenticeship masters, a lot of the learning is down to us as individuals, which is to be expected.
7. How well do you feel that your qualification (through your training provider) helps you to perform better in your role?
It greatly assists my role as a planner day to day. My knowledge base, just over the last 6 months, has significantly improved. This greater knowledge of the planning system assists my decision making ability, and also enables me to be a better member of my team. As the course progresses, this will only improve.
8. Are there extra-curricular activities to get involved in at your work? (For example, any social activities, sports teams, or even professional networking events.)
As far as I am aware, there is a football team which play after work one night a week, however they do not compete in a league. There are numerous events that are publicized, such as voluntary initiatives, charity projects, local and community events. There are also 'Roadshows' where are Chief Executive discusses our Council and where we are with the services and facilities we provide.
9a. Would you recommend Central Bedfordshire Council to a friend?
Central Bedfordshire Council offers great flexibility, given the agile working scheme to promote working from home and reducing carbon emissions from traveling to work. They have also supported my academic learning, through the Planning MA apprenticeship, to support my day to day work as a planning officer. There is also a friendly atmosphere within the office, with people genuinely excited about their jobs.
10. What tips or advice would you give to others applying to Central Bedfordshire Council?
Make sure to prepare for the interview, or any interview in general. Making sure you have clear examples of different competencies and skills is vital. My assessment day for the Planning Officer role was nerve racking, but once at the event I was made to feel welcome and thankfully able to demonstrate the skills they were looking for.