Secondment and graduate schemes can boost planning team recruitment, conference told

Providing secondment opportunities for staff and investing in graduate schemes are key ways to help ease council planning team recruitment problems, the Planning for Housing conference was told.

Alex Bushell, development management manager at the London Borough of Camden
Alex Bushell, development management manager at the London Borough of Camden

In a session on resourcing and recruitment, Alex Bushell, development management manager at the London Borough of Camden, said the council had faced "acute" recruitment problems, like many other councils.

The council had responded by providing a range of secondment opportunities and allowing officers to take on their own cases if they had the capacity to deal with them and providing them with the necessary support.

The scheme was able to "grow planners by giving them opportunities to handle big schemes, and prepare them through a whole range of measures", Bushell said.

Camden had experienced particular problems in trying to recruit officers to principal and senior levels, Bushell said. "When you go down the experience levels, to planner and junior planning officer level, we get a much bigger group of applicants," he said.

The authority had also used its significant pre-application advice income to temporarily "grow and shrink [the team] according to demand", he said.

Bushell said the secondment scheme provided a more permanent solution to resourcing difficulties and had been a success. "What we found is that word gets out," he said. "Camden is a good place to work and it’ll attract people at lower levels." 

Meanwhile, Joy Anibaba, principal housing development officer at Birmingham City Council, said her authority had responded to planning team recruitment issues by launching a graduate scheme that provided staff with the opportunity to work on major developments in the city.

"Graduates are given the opportunity to rotate around different teams," she said.

"They have a whole programme of masterclasses, visits, mentors, seminars – which all contribute to a good graduate programme."

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