EVENT REVIEW: Navigating the RTPI Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) – 10th March 2015

On the 10th March 2015, RTPI London in collaboration with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea(RBKC) held an event on Navigating the APC. We are very grateful to RBKC for generously allowing us to host the event at their offices in Kensington and would like to thank them for supporting planners seeking to become chartered members.

The event centred on a presentation from Hilary Lush who is the Senior Membership Officer of the RTPI. Hilary took attendees through the existing process but also discussed some of the alterations to the APC which are due to be adopted in September.

PRESENTATION AVAILABLE HERE

Hilary showed the audience the RTPI website which has a membership section. At present there are two documents which applicants who are submitting their APC in April or July this year need to refer to: Preparing your APC Submission – Guidelines 2014 and Becoming a Chartered Town Planner – A guide for Licentiates 2014. One of the changes to the APC that will take place later in the year are that these two guidance notes will be consolidated into one more comprehensive document; any candidates submitting after July 2015 should refer to the 2015 consolidated guidance which is also now on the RTPI website.

The Written Submission consists of three elements of the APC which are, Professional Experience Statement (PES), the Professional Competence Statement (PCS) and the Professional Development Plan (PDP). Hilary explained that the Log book is not formally assessed but advised that it is crucial that candidates start using it early and put in as much as detail as possible. If candidates are working on larger projects as part of a team then they need to be very clear on what aspects of this proposal they were responsible for, and exactly what their role was in delivering this development, rather than discussing the project generally; this is important in both the log book and written submission.

Turning to the Practical Experience Statement (PES) section, Hilary explained this section should include the type of employer, a description of role and the type of planning work undertaken for the candidate’s entire practical experience period. The professional level planning experience does not mean administration or technical but rather using your judgement to influence space and planning outcomes – the assessors want to see evidence of career progression that would justify election to chartered membership.

Next is the Professional Competence Statement (PCS) where candidates need to meet seven criteria in order to be successful. Hilary explained each of the criteria. Hilary advises you to choose between one and three case studies and not break up into different sub headings – you can chose such as one case study to demonstrate that you meet four criteria for instance.

(1. An understanding of context) is showing how you have an understanding – as a planner the decisions you make have implications for other professionals and the public.

(2. An ability to identify and analyse issues) Hilary advises that as a planner, candidates need to analyse what is the problem and they are going to overcome it. Hilary stressed that candidates’ need to be clear in their role in defining what the issue was.

(3. Competence in gathering appropriate value) is about information gathering i.e. did you go on site visits? Where did you get your information (e.g. planning history searches etc)? What did you discard and why? What was the most appropriate information?

(4. Competence in identifying and evaluating a course of action) This criterion means justifying a particular course of action and demonstrating how and why you disregarded the alternative option. Why was your action the most appropriate?

(5. Competence in initiating action to implement a course of action or dissemination and application of knowledge (academic research)) is very interlinked to the previous criterion – once candidates decided what to do, they need to explain how they did it.

(6. Engagement in a process of reflection and review) is cross-cutting; assessors expect to see this throughout candidates’ APC submissions. Hilary explained that Chartered Town Planners are expected to be reflective practitioners (i.e. you need to look at what went well and also what didn’t go well, what you would do next time). No planner is perfect, people sometimes make mistakes and there are often things you can do differently if you find yourself in a similar situation again. It is important to highlight areas for development and how you will address them.

(7. Knowledge and experience) contains four sub-sections. The first one, (a) legal framework is about demonstrating your understanding of the up-to-date legal knowledge, your actions/decisions and how it implements on the process. The section, (b) ethical challenges, is where some candidates struggle. This involves balancing conflicting requirements that are morally challenging. Hilary stressed the importance of candidates explaining in clear detail why they found the decision difficult and how the situation made them feel rather than just stating ‘and this was an ethical challenge…’

The third section, (c) political framework, is about demonstrating your understanding of how politics influences planning policy and your work.

The fourth section, (d) RTPI Code of Conduct, is what candidates will use as a Chartered Town Planner and it is something candidates abide by, where any planner can go back to it if there is an ethical dilemma.

The third element of the APC submission is the Professional Development Plan (PDP), where it is about how candidates would like to develop professionally. It is not just about their current role but also more about the next two year period professionally as a planner. The PDP element contains Goals; Objectives; and, an Action Plan in which all of them should be inter-related and refer to the weaknesses aspect of the SWOT analysis. Under the new guidance, candidates who are only deferred on this module will still progress to chartered membership but will have to undergo a PDP support phase; more information on this process can be found on the RTPI website.

The General Presentation of the APC Submission is taken very seriously by the assessors as the MRTPI is a professional qualification. Hilary advises candidates to both planners and non planners to proof-read the APC submission and it should be clear and easy for both to understand what you do in you job. Spelling and grammar needs to be checked. Word counts must absolutely not be exceed. Hilary highly recommends that candidates cross-reference their log book to the APC submission.

Logbook

The logbook can be kept for two years but the assessors enforce a minimum of one year. Ideally the log book should cover the whole licentiate period. Hilary showed the log book template to the audience and mentioned that some candidates struggle with it – her advice was, “write something down, you can edit later on. Backdating it just makes it difficult”. Going through each column on the log book template, Hilary explained that the fifth column (“What skills/knowledge do you feel you need to develop”) is about reflection where candidates can describe what went well, what made them nervous, what they did not know and how they would fill any gaps in skills/knowledge.

Experience

Two years spatial full time experience as a minimum for APC candidates is required (however, more experience can be added to it if candidates have it). APC candidates need to have all of their experience corroborated and need to get their line manager/employer to write a letter or email to confirm it. The two years full time can however be either full or part time. Hilary made a point of experience being detailed in consecutive blocks of three months or more – in other words, it equates to three months full time experience.

Mentoring relationship

Having a mentor on board for candidates is not compulsory but it is nonetheless a resource. It is best to have a mentor who is not your direct line manager, it could be someone else at your workplace or even a planning professional outside of work. Mentors need to be familiar with competencies and up to date with the guidance on the website but do not need to be in exactly the same type of planning job role as the candidate. It is important when you are submitting your APC that anyone is able to understand your job role and how you meet the key competencies. It may even be beneficial in some instances to have support from someone who is removed from your workplace. The mentoring relationship is confidential, even if coming from different departments in the workplace.

Tips

  1. Read the guidance.
  2. Hold the relevant level and amount of experience.
  3. Demonstrate ALL the assessment criteria.
  4. Focus on PDP.
  5. Use the resources available to you.
  6. Select your case studies carefully.
  7. Be critical.
  8. Reference the submission to the logbook.
  9. Proof-read and check your submission.
  10. Start early.
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