TOWN PLANNING AS A PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE;
TOWN PLANNING AS A PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE;
WHAT CAN I DO AS A TOWN PLANNER?
Tpl Ashiru Olugbenga Oladimeji mnitp
Going to school to acquire knowledge is like learning a skill or vocational training, the end product of the two is that you are good at doing something to improve mankind and secured future but that is where the similarity stops.
While the one that learn a skill or attend a vocational training center think of self-employment and start working towards it, the graduate with degrees and diploma start writing application seeking for job where non exit. The different is that the one that learn skill acquisition has a mindset of being a boss before, during and after training, while the other with degrees and diploma has the mind set of working under a boss not just a boss but a Big BOSS.
Meanwhile, all training must include self-development and self-sustenance, you must be your own boss, maybe that’s why some new courses were introduced in the new course outlines in our institution. It is with great pleasure that I choose to present this lecture titled: Town Planning as a Professional Practice; WHAT CAN I DO AS A TOWN PLANNER?
WHAT CAN I DO AS A TOWN PLANNER?
Before we talk about what a town planner can or cannot do, we need to ask some basic questions;
- Who is a Town Planner?
- What to expect as a town planner?
- What are the job description of a town planner?
- What are the roles of a town planner?
WHO IS A TOWN PLANNER?
In Nigeria, Town planners are professionals trained in Town and Regional Planning by a Town Planners Registration Council (TOPREC) accredited institution and registered by Town Planners Registration Council (TOPREC) after two years of pupilage with a planning firm or agencies. They are called TOWN PLANNERS … Tpl
Town planners are professionals who are involved in making both long and short terms decisions on the development and management of our cities, towns, villages and country sides in order to attain economic efficiency. They work with officials involved in the management of towns and regional settlements, analyzing and researching how to improve things and add new additions in a particular town.
A town planner’s main responsibility is to ease or avoid social, economic and environmental problems within their town of employment. They achieve this by making recommendations to local elected officials that reflect the needs of the town.
When approaching an existing problem planners must identify the root of the problem as well as any related issues. When proposing a new facility or regulation, it is crucial that planners make recommendations only after extensive research and data collection in order to make suggestions that are in the town’s best interest, and lessen the chance that problems will arise in the future.
When making recommendations to local government officials, including zoning, proposals for new public buildings, parks or utilities, town planners should keep in mind the long and short-term goals for the town’s growth. Another major responsibility of a town planner is to develop these goals, most likely through research and discussions with elected officials. In keeping these goals in mind, planners work to ensure that the environment, economy and society are flourishing as the town grows. with the explanation of who a town planner is, then we have a lot of role to play in the survival of man, animal and plant. If properly assess, we can as well conclude that God put planners in charge of the earth to replicate the paradise in heaven.
As a planner in training, I congratulate you that you are on the right direction because the profession you have chosen save human lives, animals and plants. Planners plan with the PAST for the PRESENT to project for the FUTURE.
WHAT TO EXPECT AS A TOWN PLANNER?
- The work is largely office based but you’ll spend some of your time making site visits, meeting the clients and attending external meetings.
- Self-employment or freelance work as an independent consultant can be an option once you have gained enough experience. Being a specialist in a certain area of planning can also help you to stand out from competing planners but it advisable to have a diverse client base in order to maximize opportunities and income.
- You may have to travel within working days but overnight absence from home is rarely necessary. So be ready to leave your comfort zone to make people comfortable.
- Expect competitions, it cannot be overlooked therefore, you need to keep learning, stay informed, have creative thinking, problem solving and analytical skills to give solutions to planning problems.
JOB DESCRIPTION OF A TOWN PLANNER
Government at all levels employs town planners mostly because the success of any government is based on the plan (policy) and the implementation, but a few may find employment with non-profit organizations or private companies, including real estate development or planning firms. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for urban or regional planners is expected to grow at an average rate when compared with other occupations; the number of jobs is predicted to grow 6% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS notes that a bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement for the profession, but many urban planners also hold master’s degrees and are more suitable for advancement within the profession. As a town planner, you can work in government agencies or planning firms to create and carry out plans for town development and prosperity. A bachelor’s degree in a relevant field will suffice, but most planners hold a master’s in addition to experience.
Jobs directly related to your degree include:
- Historic Buildings Inspector/ Conservation Officer
- Housing Manager / Officer /Analyst
- Local Government Officer
- Town Planner
- Transport Planner
- Urban Designer
- City Planner
- Community Development Officer
- Conflict Resolution Mediator / Negotiator
- Economic Development Officer
- Environmental Planner
- Geographic Information System Planner
- Heritage Coordinator
- Industrial Planner
- Land Use Planner
- Municipal Planner
- Planning Director
- Planning Consultant
- Policy Analyst
- Recreation and Park Planner
- Regional Planner
- Resource Development Officer
- Social Planner
- Strategic Planner
Jobs where your degree would be useful include:
- Civil Service Administrator
- Community Development Worker
- Environmental Manager
- Estates Manager
- Landscape Architect
- Planning and Development Surveyor
- Sustainability Consultant
Remember that many employers accept applications from graduates with any degree subject, so don’t restrict your thinking to the jobs listed here. You need to keep up to date with current planning, built environment and wider environmental issues if you want to pursue a career in planning. You also need to be able to express a passion for making better places and promoting your profession.
Try to get work experience through relevant part-time or temporary jobs, voluntary positions or internships, Association of Town Planning Consultants of Nigeria (ATOPCON) will be of help in this area. Some local authorities and private sector employers offer work placements in planning departments and they may also have opportunities for work shadowing or workplace visits
Make the most of field study visits on your course to gain practical skills, essential in the workplace. Some courses include a paid placement year in professional practice. Use this year to build on your skills, network and develop contacts. Student membership of a professional body, such as Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), will help increase your networking and training opportunities. Search for placements and find out more about work experience and internships.
Urban planning graduates go on to careers in planning, design and development, as well as in areas such as transport, economic development, urban regeneration and environmental consultancy.
Jobs exist across the public sector with local authority departments (such as regeneration services or planning and development, major public bodies, Private planning and environmental consultancies also employ urban planning graduates to advise organizations and individuals on specific planning schemes.
Opportunities also exist with:
- Housing Associations
- Large Retail Business
- Neighborhood Planning Organizations
- Transport Organizations (e.g. Airports)
- Private Developers
- Utilities Companies.
You can also work in the charity and non-governmental organization (NGO) sectors with environmental, conservation and heritage organizations.
Skills for your CV
Studying urban planning allows you to develop specialist knowledge in Town and Regional Planning, providing you with a range of professional skills such as:
- Design and Place making
- Knowledge of Planning Law and Legislation
- Finance and Policy Development
- Strategic Thinking
- Analytical Research
- Making a Reasoned Argument
- Professional Report Writing and Presentation
- Partnership Working and Collaboration.
You also develop skills that are useful in many different career areas. These include:
- verbal and written communication
- negotiation and mediation
- impartiality and diplomacy
- general and people management
Urban planning can be studied at postgraduate level, following the completion of a cognate degree. Some urban planning graduates go on to postgraduate study to further their planning knowledge or to specialize in a particular area. Postgraduate study, along with practical experience, is important if you want to secure membership from NITP. Specialist courses for urban planning graduates can allow you to focus on topics including transport, urban design, urban regeneration, Housing, Environmental planning or infrastructure.
Other areas of further study, which can lead to related careers, include:
- business management
- built environment
- landscape architecture
- transport and planning.
WHAT ARE THE ROLES OF TOWN PLANNERS?
As a town planner, you will be involved in the development and management of town, cities, villages, and country sides. You will be involved in ensuring sustainable development, one that takes the future into consideration and balancing the conflicting demands that may affect the environment in order to allow appropriate development to take place. As a graduate planner, you must have spent about 4-5years in school, learning about the profession, but being a town planner goes beyond what you have learnt, (I didn’t say what you have learnt is not important, in fact it is necessary) it’s about what you can offer.
What can you do for yourself as a PLANNER?
Starting from you as a would be planner, how are you perceived by your immediate environment and friends, are you just seen as a technical drawing board carrier or tracing paper carrier, do they call your school, school 2 and you agree, do they call your department TRP (Totally Rejected People) or URP (University Rejected People) and you are comfortable with that, why? It’s because they don’t know your role in the society or they fail to hear you because you are not audible enough. Do you involve yourself in the planning of your environment, what advice do you offer your school or department on environmental issues, do you advise your parent, landlord, friends, religious leaders about the environment or is it’s still the “I don’t care’ attitude?
Enough of waiting and queuing for government jobs, what can you do as a planner without an office desk. Don’t wait till when you have to ask yourself; what can I do? start doing something now by adding to your skills, learn new software’s. AutoCAD, GIS, suffer, Goggle earth, sketch up, learn about what is trending in the profession and create your own office.
In other words, develop yourself first, then you won’t have to ask yourself about what you can do because you will certainly have enough to do.
There are various areas in which town planners can specialize. We have environmental planning, housing and development planning, transportation and land use mapping and software analyst (GIS), sustainable land use planning etc. and there are lots of work out there for planners, whether the ones people request you do for them or the once you create but you get to do these jobs based on what you can offer.
In conclusion, there are two motives to this question: its either you are scared of the future or you don’t even understand what planning entails. Maybe you have looked into other professions and you feel they are doing better, maybe you don’t even have planners around you and you are scared of what you will go through to get a job but if you give yourself to proper and conscious developments, you have nothing to fear. Its high time we stopped seeing planning as just a profession, it’s time to start living it as a life style.
Ashiru Olugbenga O. is a registered Town Planner with NITP & TOPREC and founder of Voice of a Town Planner - aimed towards projecting & advocating for the Town Planning Profession in Nigeria.