Why is there a shortage of Town Planners in the Home Counties?

A trend I have come to be familiar with, especially over the last 6 months, is how unbalanced the supply and demand for town planners in the Home Counties has become. Over the past few months there has been a spike in the demand for Chartered Town Planners, the problem is the candidate pool is increasingly becoming smaller.

The construction and property industry is without a doubt still suffering from the fall back of the 2009 recession when the industry was hit hard, people left the industry and didn’t return, leaving a skills gap within multiple disciplines. It certainly feels like it is now that these shortages are really coming to light. Those that would have been in a mid-level position are not there. This has left many areas with senior and junior employees – but no in-between. It is here that the Chartered Town Planners are missing. The likes of the RTPI have graduate schemes that will eventually fill these gaps, but for now it’s a problem that isn’t likely to be filled quickly.

This gap doesn’t seem to be affecting Central London as much as the Home Counties. It can be argued that this is because the choice of projects is wider and opportunities greater in London. Of course the remuneration is also greater in the City however with work/life balance becoming an increasing requirement for candidates, surely these roles outside of the City would be in demand?

The planning consultancies seem to be the driving force behind the RTPI graduate schemes which were introduced in 2015 by inviting graduates into projects to help them work towards their certifications. The RTPI also offer undergraduate bursaries to encourage more people to train which shows there is real effort going into filling these skills gaps which is fantastic but it bodes the question as to what do we do now? Could there be a higher level of investment from developers, consultancies and house builders to fast track graduates by introducing intensive training programmes for those junior planners with a few years’ experience under their belts? Could the RTPI offer more incentive to train, target schools and colleges to raise awareness of the planning discipline? There are options and many are being explored which I believe will slowly but surely close this well reported skills gap.