A NSW Government website

Strong Start

Fostering the next generation of planners in NSW

Planners are vital to shaping the communities we live in, by assisting to create vibrant and liveable cities, towns and regions for people to enjoy.

The department works with industry, local government and the private sector to support a skilled planning workforce in NSW. This workforce is critical to ensuring our NSW planning system is effective, efficient and delivering good outcomes for communities.

Planning has not been immune to the skills shortage being felt across the country. The following initiatives aims to address this shortage connecting students with jobs, and councils with much-needed planners, particularly in our regional areas.

Cadetship program

To continue giving a strong start to our new generation of planners, we have launched a council cadetship program to directly address NSW councils’ planning workforce shortages and support them to employ new locally based planning cadets.

The program includes $1.6 million in grant funding and ongoing end-to-end support to:

  • encourage councils to onboard additional cadet planners and develop them into more senior roles
  • grow more planners in regional areas where the planning skills shortage is most severe
  • help planning graduates gain practical work experience while increasing the capacity of council planning teams.

Council grant funding – Apply now

Up to $1.6 million is available to support NSW councils to employ and develop new planners, with councils able to apply for grants of $25,000 to fund planning cadets’ university tuition.

This funding is available to eligible councils through a competitive grant process.

Applications close 5 pm, Friday 9 June 2023.

Apply online

For further details about the application process and eligibility:

  • Register to attend our webinar on Tuesday 30 May at 1:30 pm to hear more about the program and ask any questions you may have.
  • Download the program guidelines (PDF, 1.3 MB), including grant application requirements and funding agreement.
  • Read our frequently asked questions below.
  • Contact Rukshan de Silva, Director (Regional NSW), Planning Delivery Unit or Brianna Cheeseman, Project Officer (Regional NSW), Planning Delivery Unit at [email protected].

If you're interested to hear more about Strong Start, please sign up to the department's email updates about the program via the NSW Planning Portal

Frequently asked questions

Who can apply?

All 128 councils in NSW are encouraged to apply, provided they have at least one senior staff member with the relevant skills and capacity to train a planning cadet.

How many applications can councils submit?

There is no limit to the number of applications councils can submit.

What can the funding be used for?

Successful councils can use the funding for university tuition fees of a new planning cadet they employ or an existing non-planner council staff member who is interested in undertaking studies to support their transition into a planning role. Councils will receive a one-time grant payment of $25,000 and will have until 30 June 2024 to onboard a planning cadet. The grant funding must be used by councils to pay for the planning cadet’s tuition fees (either part time or full time) for an undergraduate certificate, graduate certificate, diploma, bachelor’s degree, or master’s degree in planning at a NSW university*, with the requirement for annual acquittal to the department. 

If tuition fees exceed the $25,000 grant, councils can choose to subsidise the remaining tuition fees (if any) or require the cadet to pay the remaining fees themselves.

If there is remaining grant funding after a council has paid for a planning cadet’s tuition, councils may use remaining grant funding to pay for the tuition of an additional planning cadet. Any remaining grant funding that is not put towards tuition fees must be returned to the department.

* Please see a detailed list of eligible planning courses on page 7 of the program guidelines.

Will councils be supported throughout the program?

The department will provide a cadetship concierge service to ensure successful councils receive ongoing end-to-end support through the program and are set up for success. This will include support in creating, advertising and filling cadet roles, delivering mentoring programs and providing professional development opportunities to cadets.

What are the assessment criteria?

This is a competitive grant process. All applications will be evaluated against the following criteria:

  • Planning staff vacancy rate: Councils with the highest vacancy rates with their planning teams will be prioritised. This aligns with the program objective to address the planning skills shortage in NSW and fill existing vacancies in council planning teams.
  • Existing planning cadets: Councils that don't have existing planning cadet roles will be prioritised. This aligns with the program objective to incentivise and support councils to employ and develop new planners.

Mentoring program

To facilitate a strong start to our next generation of planners, in February 2023 we launched our first mentoring program open to any student or graduate planner working at a council in NSW.

Students and graduates were paired with experienced planners at the department, who share knowledge and expertise, provide coaching, expand professional networks, and support professional development. The program offers personal support when starting out in your career.

What’s happening now

The mentoring program is now underway, with 60 mentees from 48 councils taking part until December 2023.

All mentees have now been matched with a suitable mentor and started their mentoring journey, which includes:

  • completing the Art of Mentoring online training
  • attending 3 MS Teams webinar events: program launch, mid-program review, program close
  • establishing a timetable for one-on-one meetings by working with their paired mentoring partner
  • completing surveys throughout the program to ensure all mentees get what they need from the program.

For more information about our Strong Start mentoring program, you can:

Student and graduate employment directory

Students and graduates can launch their careers by discovering a wide range of job opportunities on the Planning Institute of Australia’s Employment Directory.

We have partnered with the Planning Institute of Australia to create a new field “Student/Graduate Employment” on the employment directory to make it quicker and easier to discover relevant positions in local and state government, and the private sector.

Find your next job opportunity on the employment directory.

NSW councils can advertise for free

To help councils fill planner job vacancies, we are waiving the cost for all NSW councils to post an unlimited number of student or graduate planner jobs on the employment directory in 2023.

Councils can advertise student or graduate jobs for free. Simply download this Advertising Request form (PDF, 103 KB) and email it to [email protected]