Grampian Housing Association backs planning experts’ call for intern action

Owners of a Scottish consultancy firm are urging employers to nurture the next generation of planners to avoid a crisis in the profession.

Grampian Housing Association backs planning experts' call for intern action

Pippa Robertson and Maggie Bochel

Directors of Aurora Planning Ltd in Aberdeen, Maggie Bochel and Pippa Robertson, insist action must be taken now to prevent a skills shortage in the sector.

A recent study commissioned by Skills Development Scotland highlights a decline in the planning workforce since 2014 but predicts the sector will grow in the next 15 years creating a skills gap.

Maggie Bochel said: “All of us in the industry have a responsibility to bring on the next generation of talent. Students and graduates need a leg up into the world of work and all of us in the sector have it in our power to help do this.

“A paid intern has been through our doors for each year we’ve been operating and all three of them found jobs almost immediately on completing their time with us.

“And if we can do it in our small office with a workforce of two then any other organisation can too, and we urge them to do so.”

Internships are a proven way to make industry contacts and give young people a real head start with their careers.

Being mentored by people who are immersed in their profession builds confidence, clarifies career goal setting and provides all-round skills for a smooth transition into that first job.

Pippa Robertson said taking on interns also offers great benefits to organisations.

She added: “It’s a privilege to support young people to get into the profession we love and which impacts people’s lives every day whether they know it not.

“It is also great for making us think about our processes and procedures since interns often ask the what, how and why, with the why sometimes being a challenging question.

“They also bring new ideas and fresh thinking leading to broader perspectives.

“Because we’re a small business we both do absolutely everything, so we never ask an intern to do something we don’t do ourselves, but it’s nice to be able to share some of the work.”

The Skills in Planning research paper identifies promotion and awareness-raising of planning, developing a route map to ensure graduate entry to the sector and employee skills development as key areas for action.

Craig Stirrat, chief operating officer of Grampian Housing Association (GHA), started his career on graduate training programme with the former Kirkcaldy District Council.

He said: “I wholeheartedly support Aurora’s call for organisations to do their bit to nurture young people in planning and I would add housing and all other sectors as similar challenges are faced.

“There certainly is a demographic timebomb as many of us reach retirement age and this has been recognised by the Scottish Government in terms of population profile changes.

“We hope to appoint modern apprentices at GHA soon and I would also like to start a graduate training scheme similar to the one I myself benefited from.

“It is imperative that years of experience is passed on before talented folk retire and that organisations represent the wider population in their sectors.”

Anybody who would like to be considered for an internship with Aurora Planning should contact Maggie Bochel and Pippa Robertson via

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