Planning: training to succeed

As a profession, planners are highly qualified.

Research by the (then) Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure* shows that almost all of us have a tertiary qualification and two thirds of us hold more than one.

As professionals, we need to know a lot about a little and a little about a lot. Planning is a knowledge industry, but at times it can feel like there is a ‘disconnect’ between what we’ve learnt at university and the skills required in our day-to-day jobs. More than half of us feel that planning qualifications did not adequately prepare us for our entry into the workforce.

It’s not surprising then that many of us seek out new learning and new skills throughout our careers, particularly in our first few years. I’m sure most planners have been to at least one PLANET program or VPELA seminar in their professional career.

The challenge for us as a profession is to build on this base and to continue to develop our skills and support our staff in widening their particular skill set throughout their careers. The anecdotal evidence of managers in the private and public sectors is that the single greatest training need within their organisation is skill enhancement for experienced planners.

Planners are seeking to better appreciate the relationship between a development and its context and to equip themselves with the tools and knowledge to consider complex applications.

Innovation in the environmental performance and architectural design of buildings is changing the way planners need to understand and assess buildings. A stronger focus in recent years to consider the internal amenity of dwellings has required planners to learn more about the practicalities of design outcomes.

Changes in the character of our suburbs as urban renewal has occurred also require us as a profession to think more holistically about how a new development can fit comfortably with its near neighbours.

The need for skill development extends beyond the planning community. We know that architectural professionals are also seeking to expand their knowledge and understanding of planning requirements to influence their own design rationale and professional development.

There is a real gap for training on new and emerging issues – like daylight access and noise in development, dealing with contaminated land or assessing native vegetation under the new pathway-based approach.

There’s also a need for training to nurture new skills and focus on practical application and understanding.

I’m committed to planning training and bringing together industry leaders who can share their expertise and experience and connect research with practice.

Next month, town planning professionals will have access to an ongoing calendar of training programs that reflect the ever changing and emerging issues in the industry. Businesses will also have access to specialised training programs that are tailored to their specific needs.

What training do you think the industry needs?

John Glossop is a Director of ADDO Training and Glossop Town Planning. ADDO provides specialist training for professionals in the planning industry.

* Who We Are? Victoria’s Planning Workforce 2013


Nicholas Harrison's picture

I think that it is not just planning professionals that need training but that local Councillors also need basic training in how the planning system works in Victoria.

Often Councillors have no experience with the planning system or their only interaction with the planning system has been objecting against local development.

When Council is making a decision on a planning application councillors are in a quasi-judicial role making planning permit decisions based on the interpretation of the relevant legislation. Often Councillors do not understand or ignore this responsibility and make decisions based purely on their personal opinions or political considerations.

Unless Councillors have a good understanding of how the planning system works they cannot effectively make decisions that support the community and make the best use of Council resources.

Too often Council officers are pressured into making recommendations that Councillors can rubber stamp rather than giving frank and fearless advice based on an assessment against the planning scheme.

Planning officers in local government and managers who oversee departments that include planning responsibilities also need training in how to resist these pressures as in my experience it is common for senior officers (particularly managers from a non planning backgrounds) to make recommendations based on pressure from Councillors rather than a professional, independent assessment against the requirements of the planning scheme.

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Andrew - West Essendon's picture

Those are serious problems in some councils, Nicholas.

There is understandably a confusion in the general community between strategic planning (chiefly the planning scheme) and statutory planning (chiefly planning permits). That some councillors still think planning permit application decisions can be used in an attempt to remedy perceived defects in the applicable planning scheme beggars belief!

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