The principles which underpin the RTPI's APC those of reflection, professional development planning, objective setting and progress review are good practice within any supportive training process. From an employer's point of view, the APC structure provides a helpful framework for ensuring that your graduate trainees are supported in the important formative years of their professional careers.
Different employers will have different systems, both formal and informal, for supporting their trainees. This section is provided as a helpful resource for employers when thinking about the kinds of practical steps they may be able to take to ensure the best possible support for their graduate trainees in gaining their professional qualification.
Providing good quality experience
In order to be successful in their APCs, Licentiates will need to be able to demonstrate the required period of professional planning experience. Assessors will be looking for evidence that candidates have enough experience at a professional rather than administrative level, and one of the key tests for this is the extent to which the candidate has autonomy in professional decision-making even if this is ultimately overseen by a more senior member of staff.
It is in the interest of both the candidate and the employer that Licentiates have the opportunity to gain the best possible level of experience to secure success in the APC. As an employer, you will want to get the best from your staff, so it is appropriate to be assigning work at the best possible level, within a supportive environment. Employing Chartered Planners provides significant benefits for employers, so providing good quality experience should improve your graduates ability to progress to Chartered Membership and the earliest opportunity. In employing Licentiates you are already secure in the knowledge that they have academic degrees accredited by the RTPI, and that they are committed to gaining their professional qualifications.
Providing a range of experience
A good range of experiences at the start of their careers will provide Licentiates with a firm grounding in the profession. For the purposes of the APC, it will provide Licentiates with a range of possible case studies on which to focus in their APC written submission, giving them the best chance of demonstrating all of the APC assessment criteria. A wider range of experience should also help to foster holistic approach to planning helping trainees to broaden their perspective on their profession and increase their capacity for reflection and multi-disciplinary working.
There are many different ways in which employers are able to ensure a good range of professional experiences for their Licentiates. These could include:
- Formal job rotation/placements within a structured training scheme
- Secondments to different areas or work environments
- Encouragement for undertaking a range of projects, possibly with different teams (particularly relevant to the private sector)
- Cross-departmental working and work shadowing
- Encouragement and support for volunteering opportunities, e.g. through Planning Aid
Support for mentoring
Developing support for mentoring is a fantastic way to embed a culture of learning and professional development within your organisation. Assisting Licentiates in identifying a mentor not only helps to support them on their APC, but also provides mentors with a valuable opportunity to undertake continuing professional development activity. This form of mutual support should greatly help to increase the stability and professionalism of your workforce.
Payment of assessment fees
Although APC assessment fees are kept as low as possible, there is ultimately a cost involved in the administration and assessment of this more detailed, competence-based process. Payment of or contribution towards the fees associated with gaining a professional qualification is one great way in which employers can support the process. What may be a small amount for an employer can be a significant one for an employee, so payment of professional assessment fees is a great way to secure commitment from your trainees.
Linking the APC with internal processes
There is a wide range of ways in which employers can integrate the APC and its requirements with their own internal processes, particularly with regard to appraisal and performance monitoring processes. The log books and professional development plans that your Licentiate employees are keeping throughout this process could provide a useful basis for discussions during appraisal or review, or could strongly feed into the documentation required for these internal processes.
Some employers already operate their own graduate training or mentoring schemes, and the mentoring element of the APC can play a significant role in this. Generally speaking, it is helpful to separate support-based processes such as mentoring from performance and rewards-based processes such as formal appraisals, but the discussions from each of these could helpfully feed into the other. Maintaining a degree of separation between these processes ensures that trainees feel secure in being open about their professional development needs in order to ensure the best possible progress.
Study leave/time allowances for completing APC documentation
Gaining membership through the APC as opposed to the old-style membership procedures requires a great deal more time and commitment from graduates as it requires them to take time out to reflect on and record their professional experiences. Providing study leave or some other form of time allowance during office hours to complete the required documentation will greatly assist in relieving the pressure on Licentiates, and give greater assurances of success. The written submission is a lengthy piece of work, and employers policies on providing time allowances could reflect this.
Facilitating exchange of good practice
Sharing experiences among graduates and as a result building up the resources available to you as the employer to support future APC success is a great way of embedding knowledge about the process into your organisation. Practical ways in which this might be achieved could include:
- Encouragement of shared experiences among graduates - face-to-face during training days or seminars, or online through dedicated intranet pages/discussion forums
- Talks and seminars to promote/share experiences on the APC perhaps led by internal experienced APC mentors or assessors, or by those who have gone through the process
- Ensuring your Licentiates are tapped into RTPI resources, e.g. the Young Planners Network, so that they are aware of forthcoming events
Support for other forms of continuing professional development
In addition to professional experience, employers may be able to support other activities through which Licentiates can develop their professional competence. These could range from formal activities such as training, conferences and seminars, through to less formal activities including work shadowing and independent reading/research.