2022 PIA National Congress - Bec and Eric Taylor Burrell Barnett

Reflections of a Young Planner

05 Dec 2022

Almost 12 months ago, we sat down with Bec Didcoe, who'd just won the PIA WA Young Planner of the Year, to discuss her top tips for young planners entering the industry.

At that time, Bec also commenced as the 2022 Convenor of PIA WA’s Young Planners committee, putting in over 300 hours of her time towards young planner events, sharing of knowledge and more. As her term as the Convenor comes to an end, we asked Bec to reflect on her key learnings over the past 12 months.

(You can read the Top 5 Tips for Young Planners from PIA WA Young Planner of the Year here)

Young Planners are passionate

The ideas and passion I see from so many YPs often astounds me. They have passion for their own professional development, a thirst for knowledge, a desire to help others and strong opinions on matters impacting communities on local, regional, state, national and international scales.

Their passion astounds me, their energy scares me. Help grow their confidence and recognise their ideas can challenge the status quo.

I encourage anyone who isn’t a young planner to ask the YPs they know what motivates them. Their answers may surprise you too. It’s usually a beautiful point where they may not yet be a bit jaded by some of the roadblocks many of us face and where they honestly just see things in a different way. It’ll benefit you to hear it as much as it’ll benefit them to share it.

There are knowledge and skills gaps, and that’s ok

University cannot teach you everything you need to know to be a planner.

I was lucky to spend my final year of my Master of Urban and Regional Planning also working as a Cadet Planner at the MRA to see just how different university and working as a planner are. Don’t get me wrong, I learnt some important skills at uni but no one actually ever taught me how to read a plan (shout out to my Dad for doing that the evening after my first day as a Cadet Planner).

There are things young planners fundamentally will not know how to do even though they have a piece of paper saying they are a planner now.

The message for young planners? What matters more in those first 6-12 months working as a planner is not your knowledge or skills – it’s your attitude. The knowledge and skills will come eventually and hey – life isn’t a closed book exam – I’ve seen incredibly experienced planners have to ask others for help finding answers.

The message for experienced planners? Try and remember what it was like to not know how to read a plan. What it was like to have absolutely no idea how to lodge a deputation request with JDAP or how to answer a sticky question from a member of the public when you’ve got counter duty. While you’re remembering that, remember where you actually learnt how to do those things – it was probably on the job with some patient more experienced planner guiding you through it. Now it’s your turn to do the same.

WA is one of the best places in Australia to be a Young Planner

I mean no disrespect to my planning colleagues over east, in fact being on the National Young Planners Committee in 2022 and having the opportunity to attend the PIA National Congress in Hobart thanks to TBB were incredible experiences but they were experiences that solidified for me that West is Best.

I have seen so many people volunteering time and resources to help young planners grow. Whether they’ve volunteered to be a mentor through the PIA mentoring program, attended our Speed Interview, Speed Networking of Young Planners Summit PD events; given young planners the opportunity to speak at State Conference; or agreed to have coffee with me to discuss how the PIA Young Planners Committee can help YPs transition into the workplace from uni – the amount of time and opportunities planners in WA give to support young people in our profession is immense. The opportunity provided by the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage to even offer the YPs the opportunity to be involved in the Neighbourhood Design Advisory Group following our 2021 YP State Conference speech allows us to follow our passion

In the frame of WA going down to one course after the incredibly poor decision by UWA to end their Master of Urban and Regional Planning program, it is more critical than ever before that we have the support of the broader industry.

I will be forever grateful to a lot of people in the WA planning industry for how they’ve helped me grow and for the support they’ve given YPs in 2022 and in 30-40 years’ time when I have the experience of a Lex Barnett or a David Caddy, I hope I am still as passionate about supporting the next generation as they are.

Life after YP...

I think WA’s PIA Board Member Ray Haeren captured it well at one of my final state PIA meetings when I said it was time for me to fade into obscurity and he suggested that would never happen. I tend to agree with Ray, between the brightly coloured clothes, my loud talkative nature and the passion I now have for PIA and this industry… fading into the unknown probably isn't my path from here.

Being a young planner doesn’t last very long. I will still technically be one until December 2024 and even beyond that I will always be a strong advocate for young planners. As 2022 ends I am feeling so excited for the future of our profession and I am really keen to help keep helping with the development of YPs in WA and across Australia. We need to listen to and nurture their development and harness their energy to face challenges

There are so many people to whom I’m grateful for the opportunities of the last 12 months, in particular TBB for nominating me for Young Planner of the Year and their support of this incredible opportunity as Convenor. Time to spend the extra free time I’ll have on my hands with my very excitable border collie who will be glad to have more of my attention back!

Don't forget, I'm always eager to help young planners, so please feel free to reach out (see details here) or connect on my LinkedIn.

2022 PIA National Congress - Bec and Eric

Bec Didcoe and Eric Denholm at the 2022 PIA National Congress in Hobart

Bec Didcoe, Katherine Shirley and Farida Farrag at PIA WA State Conference 2022