A Phenomenological Narrative Inquiry Into How People Chose Their Career in Environmental Planning
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Planning is concerned with people and places, giving consideration to environmental, social, and economic issues. Planning aims to meet current needs and to anticipate future issues, enabling people and societies to thrive. At its core, planning is about problem solving. It is a profession which influences nearly every area of our lives: water, housing, food, transportation, the natural environment, and pollution. It is a challenging profession involving strategy, innovation and creativity. The heightened recognition of climate change illustrates the critical role planning plays in communities and the future. Yet despite the dynamic, and urgent challenges within this work, the profession is experiencing a skill shortage. This study brings together the fields of career development and human resources at their point of intersection, the world of work and the issue of future skills. The study investigates how people came to work in the field of environmental planning, and how others could be informed and encouraged into this work. Using a narrative methodology, the research explores the lived experience of four participants: how they came to their career in planning, and their thoughts on informing others. The influences are explored with reference to the Systems Theory Framework of Patton and McMahon (1999). Key findings to emerge were the influence of social context on career choice, and the relationship between an interest in the natural environment and planning. Values of fairness, social justice and ‘doing good’ were shown to connect with this work. The role of chance is also prevalent. A lack of awareness and negative perceptions about this profession were evidenced. The findings confirm that careers are social constructs, with parents, teachers, location and socio-economic status being key determinants for the four participants. The findings revealed that the contribution of planning to society needs to be more widely known. Findings also indicated a responsibility on those in the workforce to open the eyes of the next generation to the possibilities which exist in the world of work. Increased awareness, understanding, motivation, and aspirations result from employer engagement, with this engagement also contributing to the development of talent pipelines. The study argues that it is time to revolutionize the way the future generation connects with the world of work.