Graduates: Good for your business and the profession

One firm's experience shows that taking on young planners can contribute to growth, says Chris Sheridan.

Hiring graduates is good for business and the profession, says one planning consultancy. By recruiting four graduates in two years, GP Planning doubled the size of its planning team and increased turnover by a quarter.

In 2010, the practice had three planning staff. However, strong growth prospects meant it decided to recruit a graduate to join the busy office. "Our ethos and business objective is to support and develop planning professionals," said associate Lucy Booth.

The practice advertised for a graduate position and two people were selected for interview from the flurry of applications.

"Both candidates were exceptional," said Booth, "so we hired both. They had a complementary range of skills, knowledge and education, and the support they provided to each other in a small business environment has been invaluable.

"We believe all four graduates who have now been hired have made a significant contribution to the growth of the practice. They have created a young, dynamic and enthusiastic organisation, with a strong platform for future growth."

So how did the firm manage the growth in staff and business? "Graduates are offered a three-month contract, with a formal review in the third month," said Booth. "A permanent contract may then be offered. This enables the employer and graduate to get to know each other, while providing the graduate with valuable experience.

"All work undertaken by graduates is done as part of a project team headed by a senior planner," explains Booth. "The senior planner is responsible for the overall quality of work, ensuring that graduates have the opportunity to learn and be involved in exciting projects, and that the client receives the very highest levels of professional work and service."

The practice has adopted a range of measures to support graduate development, including mentoring and continuing professional development.

Graduate Paul McLaughlin, who joined the consultancy this year, said: "The foundation training is excellent, support is always available and the workload is stimulating."

Alexandra Barter, who joined GP Planning in 2010, said that the consultancy had given her a chance to learn on the job and experience many different aspects of planning within a short period of time. "I believe that I would never have had this opportunity anywhere else as a graduate," she said.

With more planning graduates than vacancies, it is vital that employers of all sizes provide work opportunities to the next generation of planners.

Chris Sheridan is Planners in the Workplace manager. The full version of this article is available from the RTPI website.

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