Tell us about your career journey so far?
Originally from Liverpool, I became interested in all things planning and the environment through (you guessed it) studying geography at GCSE and A Level. From there I went to Newcastle University to study an MPLAN in Town Planning (an MPLAN is a five-year course with a placement year the fourth year). For my placement year I worked at Adams Hendry Consulting Limited, an environmental planning consultancy based in the wonderful city of Winchester. Over the course of the year my skills in communication, organisation, knowledge of the planning process and legislation and most importantly my confidence improved. The projects I became involved with were all very different from Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) to planning appeals and replacement dwellings. I was also lucky enough to be able to go on a range of site visits such as sites for residential developments, a sewage treatment works and a salad farm. Through working there, I became involved with IEMA Futures, the RTPI Young Planners Network and Women in Planning. Adams Hendry are very supportive of me and my involvement with these networks.
After my placement year ended, I made the decision to stay on working at Adams Hendry part time whilst undertaking a master’s in Environmental Assessment and Management. Through my experience and knowing my interests I really wanted to take the opportunity to specialise in a subject which would I love to work in for the foreseeable future. By specialising for my master’s it enables me to achieve my goal of becoming a Chartered Town Planner and also gives me the opportunity to work towards becoming a Charted Environmentalist, which is something is a goal of mine and work up the membership ranks at IEMA.
What have you achieved with IEMA Futures so far?
Through being an ambassador for IEMA Futures I have had the opportunity to voice my opinions through different platforms such as writing articles for the Transform magazine, sitting on the Transform editorial board and also part of the IEMA Futures team working towards the same goal of environmental awareness and seeking to spark debate through the organisation of events for a network of students, graduates and young professionals who are also passionate about the environment.
For me personally, IEMA Futures, by giving me the platform to share ideas, has enabled my confidence to develop at meetings, events or even just in every day activities. Professionally, being a part of IEMA Futures has improved my writing skills (through writing articles for the Transform magazine) and has helped me in my current studies at Oxford Brookes by being able to talk to member of staff at IEMA about what I am studying such as Environmental Impact Assessments and getting their views and insights on it.
To what extent are you given support and guidance by IEMA?
IEMA have been very enthusiastic and supportive of our group. In the group we each have our own roles in which we have an IEMA member of staff as a ‘buddy’. This is a great initiative and is working really well. My role on the group is the Transform coordinator. For the Transform magazine, we get given different topics each month to write articles for. I then share this with the group and whoever has ideas on the topic will then go on to write the article.
Last year, in November, IEMA Futures were invited to go to Lincoln to see IEMAs head office and meet the member of staff face to face. This was such a great opportunity and really enthused the group. I found it really helpful to put a face to our IEMA ‘buddy’ as it has made communication via emails and calls a lot easier and enjoyable.
What tips would you give to anyone looking for a University degree?
From my experience, having studied my undergraduate in Town Planning, a degree which not many people knew about, I was faced with questions all the time asking why I had chosen to study such a ‘niche’ subject. However, this is something I imagine happening quite regularly in our profession due to lack of understanding and awareness. I would advise anyone looking for a degree choice to check out everything that interests you, no matter who’s heard if it or how niche it may be observed to be. You don’t want to end up in a situation where you are confused about what job you think you’ll fit into after university.
I was really lucky in that I knew what type of job I wanted in my profession going into my studies. I know everyone doesn’t get this lucky and if this happens to you, throughout your studies make sure you are thinking about your option modules and how these may help you in the future. I found that talking about these modules when I went for job interviews helped to spark interesting discussions which also makes you look good to your potential future employer.
What tips would you give anyone looking for or starting out on a placement?
I would advise getting to know the different levels of planning policy, such as the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), to becoming familiar with finding Local Plans on a different Councils website. Also, having prior knowledge of legislation such as the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017, can be useful. Also, think about what organisational bodies you want to be part of. IEMA have different levels of membership which you can incorporate into your career plan. When I applied at Adams Hendry, it was great to see that they are a part of the EIA Quality Mark scheme.
Coming from university, it is definitely best to separate the two worlds. Your writing style will change, and you will naturally become quicker at picking out relevant parts of large documents. Its key not to be afraid to get involved and try things which are out of your comfort zone. Nerves are normal but by showing enthusiasm and eagerness to get involved with things inside and outside of work, the placement year will fly by and you will pick up skills without realising – which is a bonus!
Overall when either looking for a suitable degree or placement, really think about what interests you. At University you will need to be writing essays and eventually a dissertation – make sure you go with your passion as it will be a lot easier to write about!
When choosing your placement always research the company, its history and projects. Why would you apply for somewhere which doesn’t have history working on projects which you have aspirations to be involved with.
Finally, always be yourself, make your own choices and don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone – the best things always happen there!
Please note: the views expressed in this blog are those of the individual contributing member, and are not necessarily representative of the views of IEMA or any professional institutions with which IEMA is associated.
About the Author
Laura is an IEMA Futures Ambassador, an Assistant Planner at Adams Hendry and a Masters Student at Oxford Brookes University studying Environmental Assessment and Management.