Topping up training during time out

Continuing professional development needs can be met by planners even when on leave from their workplaces, Cat Shepherd reports.

When taking a break from planning, it can seem difficult to keep up to date while meeting continuing professional development (CPD) requirements. Apart from a six-month break for maternity leave you must undertake 50 hours of CPD every two years and planners are finding creative ways to tackle this.

While on maternity leave, Cluttons partner Alex Munday kept her knowledge of planning law up to date by reading Planning, the PlanningResource daily bulletin and online news.

Munday explains: "At the beginning of my maternity leave I found it slightly unnerving that I was not immersed in planning for the first time since qualifying. I had plenty to be doing at home with a new baby but I was starting to feel like the planning system could be changing faster than I could keep up. The weekly issue of Planning became my bible and together with email bulletins I was kept informed of any significant changes."

While working part-time from home as a senior planning policy officer, Jane Smith maintained her planning knowledge through a combination of work and learning. Smith made extensive use of online resources but also took a novel approach to her CPD.

"I took advantage of a family holiday to design a mini-project based around village extensions in West Dorset. I spent a few hours having a look around, read up about the developments and made observations. The study project helped to keep my development control and design skills up to date," Smith says.

Fife Council local and community policy lead officer Jennifer Whittle took a broad approach to CPD when she was away from work because of illness. She used the time to read about planning and to learn more about best practice in areas such as affordable housing, eco-housing and community projects.

Through regular contact with council colleagues, Whittle shared her research. The time spent building up a wider overview of these issues helps inform her work on local development plans.

These planners all agree on the importance of continuing to work on their CPD during a break from hands-on planning. Whittle suggests that planners taking a break from work for whatever reason use the opportunity to "lift their head up and look around the planning system, because it is harder to find the time to take such a broad view when you are in the workplace".

Munday offers some reassuring advice: "It's not difficult to meet the CPD requirements of RTPI membership and it makes returning to work a whole lot easier."

- Cat Shepherd is RTPI lifelong learning officer. If you are taking a novel approach to your CPD while taking a break from work, please email catherine.shepherd

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