Addressing the Shortage of Place Shaping Skills

7th July 2017

Over the past year to 18 months we have been working to support authorities developing solutions to the acute issues around the recruitment and retention of planners.  The lack of skills is not limited to local authorities and is not limited to this region so the fundamental need is to increase the number of people being trained.

There is no degree level course in this region and the masters was under threat up until last year due to the lack of students being signed up so that in itself is not attracting students to this region – so we need to get them earlier! 

Work has been done on an updated schools pack and a number of authorities are taking on entry level planning technician apprentices.  The degree apprenticeship trailblazer is being taken forward and we hope it will be available autumn next year, our most recent survey indicated that respondents are planning to offer 22 degree apprenticeship posts between them if we can get someone to supply the course within the region.  So, we should not be in this position in 10 years’ time but what about now?

We have worked with colleagues in London on “Public Practice” which will offer a much tailored training programme to help attract place shapers into local authorities from the private sector for 12 month placements.  Full details will be circulated in the autumn.  Still too long!

Many authorities are offering career development, paid training, flexi working, golden hello’s and market supplements to make their own offer more attractive.  With a limited pool of candidates we need a more co-ordinated approach and have developed a Memorandum of co-operation on Training and Career Development which authorities are signing up to so that we can work in a more co-ordinated way.  This will need to be monitored by the Heads of Planning moving forward and authorities have been invited to send in nominees for a regional group.  The group will also look at more co-ordinated and tailored training opportunities.  This will still take time.

So, in the latest survey we found there were over 150 vacancies across the region.  Authorities are often advertising more than once and some have moved to rolling adverts.  Agency spend is high yet this is still not necessarily attracting sufficient calibre.  Many are now looking at the work required; which elements have to be done by someone qualified, which elements can be given to someone with good writing and analytical skills, how can we package the work differently to get it done?  How can we better articulate the exciting opportunities that exist in our region with such a diversity of environments and ambitious growth plans?  By working together on a regional campaign can we give candidates a reason to come and live in the region, assured that there will be an opportunity for career development across authorities? 

Survey results will be sent to all respondents shortly with an executive summary to the remaining authorities in the region.  The regional co-ordinating group for the project will be meeting on 11th July to sign off the work that has been done under Chief Executive Sponsor James Blake from St Albans.  James has been a great Champion for the project and has given a great deal of his time particularly on the development of Public Practice. 

We welcome a new Chief Executive Champion, Russell Williams from Ipswich, to take on the mantle moving forward and are delighted to be working with him.

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