The introduction of a town planning apprenticeship in Northern Ireland would help to make the profession genuinely representative of the society in which it works, says the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).
In an open letter to Economy Minister Diane Dodds MLA to coincide with Northern Ireland Apprenticeships Week, the RTPI said that a degree-level Chartered Town Planner Apprenticeship should be considered as part of a strong, well-resourced planning service delivered through the Department for Infrastructure and the 11 Councils and supported by private sector planning consultancies.
Director of RTPI Northern Ireland Roisin Willmott FRTPI said:
“The RTPI wants to demonstrate that planning is a profession that is open to all, regardless of background and believes that the single most influential way to do this is through the education system.
“The traditional route to becoming a Chartered town planner is via university. However, with this route prohibitive to some in society, the introduction of a degree-level planning apprenticeship is an essential step in creating a truly diverse and inclusive profession in Northern Ireland.
“Our experience of the recently-launched Chartered Town Planner Apprenticeship in England, where more than half of current apprentices come from a non-degree family background, has confirmed just how successful the scheme can be in opening up the profession to all.”
In its response last month to a consultation on the Northern Ireland Executive’s proposed Programme for Government, RTPI Northern Ireland highlighted that planning can support many of the government’s key priority areas, but that planning ‘as a valuable public service’ was not acknowledged.
The RTPI believes that increased resourcing is needed to equip and strengthen planning services in Northern Ireland, enabling the system to deliver outcomes efficiently, effectively and equitably.