Planning Policy Officer at Gedling Borough Council

Sebastian Wilkins

Sebastian WilkinsMasters programme, year of graduation and current role

I studied for an MSc Urban and Regional Planning, completing the taught component of the course during the 2015/16 academic year. I secured graduate-level employment at Ashfield District Council (Nottinghamshire) prior to completing my dissertation and, as a result, postponed graduation until summer 2017. I have since secured employment at Gedling Borough Council (Nottinghamshire) as a Planning Policy Officer. It has been tough balancing work life with completing the dissertation element of my course, but will be worth it in the end!

How has your Masters prepared you and given you relevant transferable skills for your current role?

I aspired to work as a town planner in the public sector prior to applying to study at the University of Birmingham. The MSc in Urban and Regional Planning provided me a theoretical basis to become an effective planner, whilst giving me the transferable skills to enable me to fulfil the roles I have performed whilst in employment. Some of the most useful transferable skills gained during my MSc, which have been relevant whilst in employment include:

  • Practical planning research: The course was assessed 100% by coursework, focusing on practical planning examples in Birmingham and the West Midlands. In doing so, I was able to interpret and critique real planning policies and strategic documents against local case studies. Research was performed at the city-strategic level (for example: HS2, city centre connectivity) and the local policy level (for example: Selly Oak, Icknield Port Loop). This range of policy research, at different scales, has enabled me to have a comprehensive understanding of planning issues. As a result, I have easily adapted to the policy frameworks of my subsequent employers.
  • Presentation skills: I delivered various presentations during the course to my classmates. During the final ‘Integrated Project’ of the course, I co-delivered a presentation to a range of planning professionals, followed by a Q&A session. The ability to deliver high quality presentations, confidently, has proven a noteworthy skill – which will be particularly useful as I climb the career ladder!
  • Report writing: My day-to-day role as a public sector planner requires good written presentation and report writing. The broad range of written assessments, including various planning related reports (and helpful tutor feedback) has undoubtedly prepared me in my day-to-day role.

What support have you had to help you make the move from your Masters to your job? For example from mentors, academics or Careers Network?

Whilst at the University of Birmingham, I attended a few Careers Network skills workshops and lectures which assisted me during my search for employment. The move from the Masters to employment was relatively easy – the Masters really prepared me to begin working in planning! However, the academics within the Centre for Urban and Regional Studies have offered their continued support should I need it in the future, and are contactable via email.

Please add any tips or advice for postgraduates looking to enter the job market

For MSc Urban and Regional Planning students, I would recommend keeping an eye on the Planning Resource website’s job section when looking for employment. I didn’t start looking for a job until May 2016 and I was in work two months later. It was quite daunting when a few of my class mates had graduate programmes secured early on in the course - but I am glad that I didn’t rush - and I didn’t need to - jobs pop up on the above website weekly.

LinkedIn has proven a useful resource at the beginning of my career. I have one connection that I interviewed as part of my undergraduate dissertation, two years prior to the MSc, who helped me gain a week-long work experience placement during my MSc studies. I have been building LinkedIn connections with my colleagues to ensure that I continue to have potentially useful contacts in the future.

Gedling Borough Council is a local authority covering the north and northeast area (46.6 m2) of the City of Nottingham and a population of 110,000. It has 50 elected councillors and 400 employees and offers graduate opportunities in a number of areas although there is not a set graduate scheme.




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