Planning through the degree apprenticeship route

CarneySweeney Planner and Apprentice Lucy Burton reflects on her career journey into the profession 

Have you ever wondered whether university is the right route for you? Well, you might be surprised to discover that other options are available. The degree apprenticeship allows you to study towards an undergraduate and/or masters degree while you work, gaining invaluable industry experience and earning a salary at the same time.

Having completed my A-Levels but not being certain on a career path, I chose a Degree Apprenticeship that would allow me to learn through work, and complete my degree at the same time. I still applied to university to keep my options open, but choosing a degree apprenticeship over full time study was appealing.

At 18, I started my apprenticeship with a national housebuilder and was placed within their planning department. With no knowledge of planning or what the role really entailed, my colleagues helped me to understand the profession, and I began undertaking small tasks until I became more knowledgeable. I started my degree on a part time, one day per week basis alongside working the remainder of the week, and found the relationship between the two worked well. I was able to gain knowledge of planning theory at university and put this directly into practice at work. Planning is a profession I had very little prior knowledge of, but through the Apprenticeship route I have found a career that is both challenging and rewarding.

Study days vary across the degree apprenticeships programme generally. In my case, my degree runs on a day release once per week, where I attend lectures. The assignments are 100% coursework based and students on the course are assessed on practical pieces of work. As a result, I can relate university assignments to tasks undertaken at work and use both to improve the work I produce. My CarneySweeney colleagues have provided invaluable feedback on assignment pieces, where they are directly relevant to day-to-day tasks and assist in my learning.

The Urban Planning Degree Apprenticeships runs over a period of 5 years, and whilst this may sound long, this includes an Urban Planning undergraduate course, an Urban Planning master's degree and Chartership from the RTPI. As practical experience is being gained throughout, it allows Chartership to be achieved directly after completion of the master's degree.

Employers are increasingly realising the benefits of employing degree apprentices who develop practical skills and experience alongside academic qualifications. Many graduates' studies are not specifically tailored to the jobs they end up in, and so require greater support and training by their employer. On the other hand, an apprenticeship provides focused learning and training from the outset. Having worked in planning since beginning my apprenticeship, my knowledge of the industry and interaction with clients, consultants and local authorities has enabled me to achieve a wide range of experiences and opportunities to build my career.

I am still in the process of undertaking my apprenticeship, but I have now completed most of this journey and I am about to start the final year of the masters degree before the RTPI chartership stage. The process has been positive, and I feel I have progressed faster in my career.

If you are not sure a traditional degree is the right step for you, I would recommend considering the opportunities provided by a degree apprenticeship.

by Lucy Burton
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