In February 2006, the RTPI executive board reviewed eligibility for the assessment of professional competence (APC) and concluded that it was needed to bring the institute's professional membership in line with that of other built environment professions. It was therefore introduced to help accelerate the upskilling of the profession.
Licentiates about to submit APC applications may feel overwhelmed by the requirements, but there is a wide range of advice available. You can take a look at the RTPI web page on the APC. This provides most of the basic information and resources, including responses to frequently asked questions as well as a guide to the assessment.
Getting involved in Planning Aid is a great way to broaden your skills and knowledge and help people at the same time. You can also get involved with the RTPI networks, which allow you to take advantage of the opportunities that they offer for knowledge exchange and influencing the work of the RTPI.
Your RTPI region can provide a whole host of local training events and social activities, many of which are at exactly the right level for young planners. You could even help with the management of the region by sitting on the committee.
Licentiates also have access to their own online learning account at www.planningmatters.co.uk, where they can download free modules up to a value of £100 in their first year as a licentiate.
Training courses can help. You should aim to use up the training budget from your employer each year so that none is wasted. Do not wait to be asked but see what is coming up in your region and grab the more interesting courses.
Change employers if you need to. Do not panic if you do so during the assessment period but remember that periods of employment of less than three months' duration are not generally eligible towards the APC. Notify the institute of your different employment details and decide whether you will need to change your mentor.
Then there are the regional APC workshops. The first of these was piloted in Birmingham during March. Licentiates in attendance had the opportunity to discuss any issues arising from their APC, with a particular emphasis on completing the log book. A similar event will be run in Manchester on 24 April.
You should make full use of your APC mentor and mentor meetings. Mentors offer their services free of charge, have been trained in the role and have a wealth of experience on which to draw. They can also provide practical advice. Regular contact is essential for a meaningful exchange of ideas.
Given that the assessment requires you to be able to demonstrate experience and understanding of each of the assessment criteria, expanding your technical experience is a good idea. You must also identify areas for improvement to drive your career forward.
Licentiates should ensure that they think carefully about their professional development plan and update their log book regularly. Many licentiates find this a chore, but it will form the basis for the written submission.
Finally, keep your eye on Planning magazine. In the coming months, I will be providing the second instalment of this article, which will give advice on the final submission.
Michael Stallard is a planner at Hyder Consulting (UK) Ltd in Warrington. For further details of forthcoming workshops in your area, contact Jacqui Ward on (email) firstname.lastname@example.org.