Diary of a Planning Intern

Being a student of Architecture and Planning at UWE Bristol, you are always encouraged to seek experience in the ‘real world’ in order to learn how to apply the knowledge you amass during your degree. However, it can prove to be a challenging task, as my own personal experience illustrates.

During the summer of my second year I wrote to over 20 different architectural practices in the Gloucestershire area, and did not receive one reply. I was left feeling disillusioned and frustrated. Many of my fellow students had also been unsuccessful at securing an internship, more often than not, those that did manage had personal contacts with their employers.

As I was drawing to the end of the third year of my four year course, I decided to try again to secure an internship. I contacted 40 different architecture firms and planning practices, asking for an 8 week internship, which would be financially subsidised by my university by over 50%. This time I received a couple of polite replies which dismissed my application, but for the most part, I was ignored.

That is, until I received an email from Plainview Planning in Cheltenham, an independent town and country planning consultancy. I was completely overjoyed that someone was willing to give me a chance. It was a breath of fresh air after two summers of unsuccessful searches.

My tips for securing an internship

Securing an internship can be tricky, here are some tips I have picked up through my own experiences which I hope will be of help:

  • Never give up: As demoralising as it can be, never stop trying. Some companies may not respond to emails, so if you are struggling with getting any form of response, try a different way of contacting them. Find out their address and send a letter or phone them.
  • Ensure your CV stands out: Try a different way of formatting- add some colour! There are lots of example CVs you can look at, I trawled through Pinterest to get some ideas.
  • If relevant, send an example of your work: If you are applying to an architectural practice, include a couple of drawings that you are proud of; for planning, maybe an example of something you have written
  • If you get a ‘no’ look at why: It might be worth responding. Upon applying to Plainview I received an email from them saying that they didn’t believe their company was suitable to my needs. I responded, explaining my course to them and how I believed I was suitable. The rest is history!
  • Keep an open mind when applying: Any relevant experience is good. As someone exploring all of the possible routes to take after my degree, I was very open to different lines of work within the realm of Architecture and Planning. Although my main goal was to gain experience in a planning firm, I was aware that it may not happen. I applied to more specialised places such as landscape architects and interior designers too; you never know, you may find a new found love for something you hadn’t otherwise considered.
  • Look at how your university can help: Mine offered a subsidy to any company willing to take me on. The architecture department also did their best to help secure me an internship, putting me in contact with different companies.
  • Two weeks is better than nothing… Take whatever you can get, local councils often don’t have a budget for paying interns, but if you could afford to do a week or two for free – take the opportunity. You will thank yourself when writing up your graduate CV.

Planning Consultancy Life

I began my internship at the end of June and I have learnt so much already.  I have had exposure to a wide number of projects and am enjoying the first-hand experience of working life within a planning consultancy.

So far I have researched planning conditions, which in simple terms act like a set of ‘rules’ which accompany a development – these can be anything from dictating the hours of operation to controls on the type of glazing that should be used.

I have also learnt how to write a basic planning statement, submit an appeal, and navigate Core Strategy documents and local development plans. It is so satisfying to apply what I have been learning at University in the real world and on real projects. My lecturers were completely right, this kind of experience is so valuable to students, I can only imagine how much I will have progressed by the time my internship comes to an end.

I would love to encourage any professional reading this to give students a chance, even if you could only offer a couple of weeks to someone. RTPI is trying to encourage more young people into planning but without employers supporting them, this will never happen.

And lastly, to any students reading this; good luck and keep persisting, it will pay off eventually!