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Graham Bloomfield: The Importance of Being….an APD Assessor

Graham is a Land and Planning Partner at Sequence / William H Brown and has been a Professional Discussion Assessor from the first cohort in early 2022. He is also a member of the Membership Assessment Advisory Panel and has been an all-routes APC Assessor for over 10 years.

The Chartered Town Planner Degree Apprenticeship route to Chartered Town Planner status has been operating successfully since 2019. It plays an important role in developing new Chartered planners and provides an opportunity for employers to ‘grow their own talent’. 

You may have seen adverts recently for Apprenticeship Professional Discussion (APD) Assessors and I wanted to write this blog to explain a bit more about this rewarding role, what it entails, and hopefully encourage more Members to come forward and support this route to Chartership.

The Professional Discussion, or PD, is a 50-minute discussion akin to an interview which forms a key milestone for successful apprentices who can then proceed to submit their Degree Apprenticeship APC (DA APC) submission, as the final step to reach Chartered status.

As an assessor, one of my favourite aspects is the flexibility of the process. Using an online platform, APD assessors can register their availability for assessment dates and accept (or decline) PDs. The time commitment is broken up so that it can easily flex around work and other commitments.

Preparation for the PD, including an online pre-meeting with your co-assessor (we always work in pairs) to agree the running order of the PD, takes place in your own time and represents a relatively short time commitment. This is an important and interesting part of the process in terms of selecting the most appropriate Reflective Journal entries and preparing suitable questions that will provide the apprentice with the opportunity to demonstrate they have the skills and behaviours required.

The PD itself is effectively a commitment of up to an hour, which understandably takes place as an online meeting during working hours but can easily be made up so it is not taking assessors away from commitments to their employer. The preparation of the formal feedback form by the assessors is similarly not a significant time commitment, not being a particularly lengthy or complex document to complete and with the work split between the assessor pairings.

Training and support for both new and current assessors is excellent in my opinion and new assessors are paired with more experienced counterparts, who can lead for their first PDs.

As above I have found the PDs incredibly rewarding to take part in and to assist apprentices in reaching Chartered status. The discussions with the apprentices are always interesting and their varied backgrounds often introduce new areas of planning or a different perspective.

The PDs and their preparation and feedback can also be counted as CPD in terms of the hours put in, but they have also allowed me to develop further valuable planning skills. In particular, there is a need for assessors to think on their feet throughout the PD. Assessors also gain skills that can be applied to meetings, committees etc. in the day job.

Finally, particularly post-covid where planners can increasingly be working from home in a more isolated fashion, the PD process has allowed me to make new connections with fellow assessors, who like the apprentices come from a wide range of backgrounds, which again assists when returning to the ‘day job’.

It would be great to add to our pool of assessors and I would be happy to discuss further with any Chartered planners who may be interested. It is possible to combine being an APC assessor with being an APD assessor, however, please ensure you have enough time to be able to fully commit to both roles. It is important both assessor roles are fully resourced.

Further information on the role, eligibility and how to express an interest can be found here

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