Since 2019 NZPI has hosted an annual High School Seminar as a pre-conference event. Its purpose has been to raise awareness and interest in the Planning profession as a credible career option, with the longer term aim of supporting growth in the planning workforce. This year’s seminar involved pupils from schools across the Waikato and the future looks bright.

The initial concept of the seminar was to develop a programme for sustained long-term development of high school student interest in planning as a career, kick-started by their exposure to the annual NZPI conference. The seminars have been hosted and coordinated at branch level in Ahuriri Napier, Whakatū Nelson, Ōtautahi Christchurch, and this year in Kirikiriroa Hamilton.

This year’s seminar invited high school students to attend a session portraying a day in the life of a planner, which included a brief address from Professor Iain White, Professor of Environmental Planning at Waikato University, and to take part in an interactive workshop with planning professionals. This charette involved students moving between stations and testing scenarios on topics relating to transport and infrastructure, affordable housing, co-governance, climate change, freshwater, and renewable energy. This was followed by the students being taken on a field trip to showcase real world projects related to the topics discussed.

Students were engaged. This is what planners of the future wanted to know:

“What is the best part of your job?”

“How does AI affect planning?”

“What subjects did you take in high school?”

“What do you find challenging?”

“What inspired you to get into the job you are in now?”

The feedback from teachers on the student’s experience was overwhelmingly positive:

“The activities were excellent and engaging, also using local case studies, similar to what they have to do in geography for one of their assessments. Really like the talks from people who work in the sector and the Waikato uni professor chat.”

“The students really enjoyed all facets of the day - the presentations were short and to the point and really gave the students a glimpse into what planning involved. It was very useful for the students to hear from a range of planners from - a lecturer, to planners who have been in the sector for a range of years. The group sessions were also very informative and got our students to think and participate in real planning.”

The 2024 Seminar was developed and hosted by MC Simon Bendall (Traverse Environmental) and Chris Dawson (BBO), alongside the conference committee and local Waikato Branch. Simon and Chris contributed enormously to the success of the seminar and would both like to see it become an annual event in the Waikato Region. NZPI is delighted with this outcome and would ultimately like to see other branches take on the mantel of coordinating an annual event in their areas. The next High School Seminar will run as a pre-conference event in Invercargill as part of the 2025 NZPI Conference next March. The Southland Branch is already connecting with schools in the region and is excited to foster interest in the planning as an exciting and rewarding career.