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Pathways to Planning, Cohort 2: Guidance for Councils

Pathways to Planning is a new graduate programme which launched in September 2023. Below you can find out more information about the scheme.

What is Pathways to Planning? 

  • Pathways to Planning is a DLUHC-funded programme being delivered by the LGA with support from the Planning Advisory Service (PAS). 
  • It is intended to run as a fast-track graduate opportunity, attracting top talent and quickly upskilling graduates to tackle staffing shortages throughout local government planning teams in the coming years. This is modelled on the National Graduate Development Programme for local government, which has a successful track record attracting and retaining talent in councils. 

Basic structure of Cohort 2

  • Councils can sign up from 16 October 2023 until 31 March 2024. 
  • Graduate planners will start work and will start their RTPI-accredited course in September 2024. 

Financial information for Cohort 2 

  • The programme covers all marketing and recruitment costs. It also provides a £5,000/graduate educational bursary which councils can use for costs associated with an RTPI-accredited Level 7 apprenticeship OR as a contribution towards an RTPI-accredited part-time Master’s degree. To use the bursary as a fund to support study undertaken through the Apprenticeship Levy, councils will need to use the funds to enhance and/or support their graduate’s study (ie: travel to university of study, cost of a field trip, additional training or resources required). Councils will need to keep a record of expenditure and return any remaining funds to the LGA at the end of the graduate’s study. Councils will be responsible for paying any additional fees associated with either of these qualifications above the value of the bursary. 
  • Graduates’ salary is paid by councils. The sign up form will give you an option to select your preferred minimum salary. We recommend matching this post to your graduate planners. The minimum salary for this programme is £24,000. Please bear in mind that all councils’ salaries will be made clear to graduates ahead of the interview stage. 
  • Councils will employ the graduate(s) on a three-year contract at the minimum: councils can offer a longer or permanent contract if they wish. 

Marketing and recruitment 

  • Pathways to Planning will market Planning as a career to graduates from all degree backgrounds: its competency-based, rigorous assessment process will identify top candidates who are also a fit with a career in local government. 
  • The assessment framework has been designed by an occupational psychologist with input from PAS, the young planners and BAME planners networks, and current NGDP trainees. Assessment exercises have been built using framework and input from these and other professional stakeholders. 
  • Councils will make offer(s) of employment following an interview process. This is a ‘best fit’ interview rather than a competency-based process, given what the graduates have already passed through to get to this stage. The Pathways to Planning team will provide interview guidance. 

Appendix A: Sample work plans 

Example A 

While based at XXXX Council, our graduate(s) will do four placements, each lasting roughly 9 months. We anticipate that graduates based in the council will gain sustained work experience in the following areas: 

  • Development management (9 months); 
  • Policy (9 months); 
  • Regeneration & Corporate Delivery (9 months); 
  • Specialist area (i.e. enforcement, minerals and waste, heritage & conservation, highways etc) (9 months). 

Example B 

While based at XXXX Council, we will be funding the graduate’s position through a vacancy in our policy team. We anticipate the graduate will spend the equivalent of three days per week based in this role, where they will be supported to work on a range of policy areas.

For the equivalent of one day each week, the graduate will work on a project with our development management director, learning how to manage caseloads and process applications as well as having a small individual caseload and exposure to planning committee. 

We will reserve the last day of the week for the graduate’s learning and development. Until they start the qualification, we will try to use this time to support the graduate shadowing senior members of staff and attending meetings with councillors.  

Example C 

At XXXX Council, we will provide two main placements for our graduate(s). They will spend a year in development management and a year in policy, with the third year to be allocate based on business needs and, wherever possible, the graduate(s)’ interests. We commit to giving the graduates exposure to other key projects happening in the council’s planning teams during their main placements, including opportunities to shadow senior members of staff, gain experience with councillors, and have exposure to the delivery key sites, including corporate delivery and regeneration projects, along with other members of staff.

Appendix B: Sample Mentoring Plan 

Example A 

At XXX Council, we have mentoring at the heart of staff development. We will provide our graduate(s) with a mentor based on the graduate(s) interests within planning. Their line manager will be the main point of pastoral support for the first 6 months as the graduate(s) ascertain where they would most value a mentor. The line manager will work to identify and arrange this mentoring relationship within the first six months and assist with any changes as necessary over time. 

Example B  

The graduate(s) coming to work for us at XXXX Council will have a mentor chosen from the middle managers in our team, depending on who is the best fit based on interests and personality. We will arrange this mentoring relationship within the first eight weeks that the graduate is in post and ensure that they are well signposted to their line manager and other senior members of staff for the intervening period. We will also provide, as part of our work experience, opportunities to shadow senior members of staff once a quarter, with those members of staff being asked to take on a supportive role with any follow up from the graduate on an ad hoc basis, where time allows.

Appendix C: Recommended council structure 

We would recommend having an outline of roles and responsibilities established in the council to ensure that the delivery of the Pathways scheme within your council is as smooth and clear for all parties as possible. The following chart is a suggestion based on our experience working with the National Graduate Development Programme and is not meant to be prescriptive. As a minimum, we will need to know who the main contact point is for the LGA at the council and who the main contact would be for graduates.

Role  Description  Responsibility 
Programme champion  A senior member of staff who will advocate for the programme and graduates inside the organisation.  

Secures internal buy-in for the programme and can sign up on behalf of the council. 


Pathways Coordinator  The main contact point for the LGA within the council. The contact within the council who is responsible for ensuring work experience and mentoring arrangements are in place.  

To be the main contact when arranging interviews and onboarding graduate(s). 

To ensure that the range of work experience and mentoring outlined by the council are upheld, dealing with any queries from graduates and/or the LGA. 

To support the graduate in applying for their RTPI-accredited Masters OR to ensure their application to the RTPI accredited Level 7 apprenticeship is submitted on time. To report back to the Pathways team on key academic milestones. 

Mentor  To provide pastoral support to graduates. 

As arranged by the Pathways Coordinator within the council, there may be a range of people filling this role over time.  

The structure and expectations for this role to be outlined in the council’s mentoring plan. 

Line manager  To provide line management to graduate(s) in their roles.  This role to function as per usual within the council.