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Planners criticise Institute for Apprenticeships @IFAteched over professional assessment

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has challenged the Institute for Apprenticeships’ (IfA) ability in assessing professional standards, after the latter has rejected the assessment plan of a degree-level apprenticeship that the Chartered Town Planner Apprenticeship Trailblazer Employer Group has developed with the RTPI.

The Group has lodged an appeal against the IfA’s decision and is expecting a ruling in the summer.

This setback means that universities will not be able to recruit students as planned this September.

Philip Ridley, co-chair of the Trailblazer Group, said:

“This clear misunderstanding by the IfA of the role of chartered bodies in assessing competence and the importance for employers of quality assured professional qualifications puts delivery of the Government’s agenda for housing and infrastructure at risk. 

“Employers urgently need to take on Chartered town planner apprentices to help deliver the country’s place-shaping agenda and especially younger people who are the future of the profession.  Government reforms of apprenticeships were intended to put employers in the driving seat – this decision shows that we are still passengers!”

Victoria Hills, RTPI Chief Executive, said:

“The RTPI firmly disagrees with the IfA’s judgement on the validity of the proposed EPA, which is in line with the high standard in place to assess professional competence in all our Chartered Members for 50 years.

“The IfA’s insistence on some aspects of assessment being applied across all professions belies a lack of understanding of individual professions and an inflexible approach that prevents a diverse pipeline of new talents from entering the industry. With the number of apprentices falling 25% year on year, something is clearly going wrong.

“There is widespread concern in the built environment professions that the IfA lacks good understanding of the role of chartered professional bodies and their well established and rigorous assessment methods.

“We will work to seek policy change within the IfA that recognises the role of professional bodies in setting standards of competence and assessment methodology.”

There is strong interest for the Chartered Town Planning degree apprenticeship, with over 20 employers and six universities working to recruit this September.

The Government approved the principle of a Chartered Town Planning Apprenticeship in May 2017, developed by the Trailblazer Group with help and support from the RTPI.

The IfA endorsed the scheme’s Apprenticeship Standard in January this year which sets out the knowledge, skills and behaviours required of successful apprentices to be eligible for Chartered Membership of the RTPI. The assessment method is based on the RTPI’s current Assessment of Professional Competence for admitting Chartered Members.

But in April, the IfA cited a number of concerns in the assessment method – the end-point assessment plan (EPA) – and did not approve it.

So far, the IfA has approved fewer than half of apprenticeships developed by employers.

Currently, the vast majority of planners enter the profession after graduating from RTPI-accredited undergraduate or postgraduate planning degrees.

Apprenticeships open access and entry points to the profession, combining academic education with vocational training to equip future employees with vital skills as well as a degree.

In Dec 2016, taking advantage of the Government’s Trailblazer Degree Apprenticeships scheme, the Institute gathered interested employers including local government, private consultancies and multi-disciplinary firms to consider opportunities to introduce new pathways into the profession and ensure a healthy pipeline of town planners. All confirmed the need for a degree apprenticeship for town planning.

The RTPI submitted a proposal to Government on behalf of a Trailblazer Employers Group to develop a Town Planner Degree Apprenticeship in January 2017. It was approved in principle in May 2017.  

The Apprenticeship Standard, setting out the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed for apprenticeships to be eligible for Chartered Membership of the RTPI, was approved by the IFA in January 2018.

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