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Alternative Career Paths in Planning and Property

An innovative “speed networking” event to help students kick-start their careers in property and planning was held this week at the University of Ulster’s Jordanstown campus.

Given the current economic climate, academics recognise that graduates in the built environment discipline now find it more difficult to follow the traditional career routes through private planning consultancies and the Department of the Environment.

As a result, they are encouraging students to consider other options, such as local councils, community planning organisations, social housing associations, conservation and the renewable sector.

To this end, they invited representatives from these areas to take part in a half day, informal “Alternative Career Paths into Planning” networking event.

Students from the MSci course in Planning and Property Development at the University of Ulster attended along with students from the Property, Planning and Housing Foundation Degree course at Belfast Metropolitan College.

The event was jointly organised by Dr Heather Ritchie, Lecturer in Spatial Planning and Energy Policy at Ulster and Mrs Carrie McDonagh, Secretary of the Environmental Planning Law Association, Northern Ireland, in association with Shauna McCloy, Career Development Manager at Ulster and Áine McElhatton, Lecturer in the Property, Planning and Housing Foundation Degree course at Belfast Met.

Said Dr Ritchie: “We are aware that most of our students will not be entering their chosen profession via the more traditional routes, so we want to show them there are still lots of opportunities out there for them to work in planning and property development.

“During the event students were able take part in a tailored workshop, based on search strategies for graduate jobs, placement opportunities and work experience.

“We also introduced ‘speed networking’ where students moved from stall to stall after spending an allocated amount of time with industry representatives, picking up contacts and learning what skills and attributes employers are looking for.

“As well as being interesting and fun for students, the event gave the potential employers a chance to raise their own profile and that of their organisation, by engaging with students for postgraduate recruitment.

“They were also given the opportunity to informally network among other industry representatives and academic staff from both the University of Ulster and the Belfast Met.”

Áine McElhatton added: “Our aim for this event was to re-educate our students about the alternative career paths in planning and housing.

“It was an excellent opportunity for them to speak directly to the employers in this field and was certainly a different format from the normal presentation style events, which many students tend to shy away from.

“We ultimately wanted to reinvigorate their interest in their course by introducing these alternative paths and to really show that there is light at the end of the planning/housing doom and gloom job market.”

CAPTION: L – R Áine McElhatton (Belfast Met), Claire Ferry (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), Dr Heather Ritchie (Ulster) and students Cara O’Hagan (Belfast Met) and Michael Beattie (Ulster)