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 aim to address this shortage connecting students with jobs, and councils with much-needed planners, particularly in our regional areas.

Mentoring program

To facilitate a strong start to the next generation of planners, we are running our mentoring program again in 2024, open to any student or graduate planner working at a council in NSW. This year, senior planners working in councils were invited to register as mentors in the program, alongside senior planners from the department.

My mentor helped me to identify strategies to build my confidence and encouraged me to improve communication lines with my work supervisor around my needs and what I need to progress.

Shoalhaven City Council Strong Start mentee, 2023

Students and graduates are paired with experienced planners at the department or NSW councils, 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.

The mentoring program runs from May to December 2024.

For more information about our mentoring program read the Strong Start information pack (PDF, 2.5 MB).

Mentee and mentor applications for the 2024 program have now closed. We will be in contact with applicants to notify them of the next steps.

How long will the mentoring program run?

The mentoring program runs from May to December 2024.

Who can take part in the program?
  • Mentees: student or graduate planner, of any age, working for a NSW council
  • Mentors: department or council planner at a senior planner level or above.

Applicants must have the endorsement of their manager to participate.

Who runs the mentoring program?

The program is a NSW Government program but hosted by Mentorloop. Mentorloop is an experienced company specialising in offering modern mentoring programs. In addition to the 1:1 support, the 2024 program will also include group mentoring and opportunities to engage in peer-to-peer mentoring groups.

What is the time commitment for the mentoring program?

The program will run from May to December 2024. 

Mentors and mentees must attend 3 online events – program launch, progress review and program close.

During the program, we expect mentors and mentees to communicate at least monthly.

Mentees and first-time mentors will also be expected to complete the Mentorloop online  registration to prepare for the mentoring relationship. 

Is there a fee to take part?

No, it’s free. This is a department-sponsored program, so there is no fee for mentees and mentors to participate. Mentors give their time as volunteers.

How do I apply?

Applications for the 2024 Strong Start Mentoring Program have now closed. We will be in contact with applicants to notify them of the next steps.

When will I know if I’ve been, matched, and if so, with whom?

You will hear from us by Friday 17 May 2024 to confirm if you have been matched and the next steps to take.

What will I have to do if my application is successful?

Upon registration, you will need to:

  1. Set up your profile in the Mentorloop platform and familiarise yourself with the resources available. This will give you the knowledge and skills to have a successful mentoring relationship.
  2. Attend 3 MS Teams webinar events:
    • program launch – this will include a demonstration of the platform navigation and functionality, as well as content including goal setting, how to be a good mentee/mentor and more
    • mid-program review
    • program close.
      Please see the table of key dates in the Strong Start Info Pack.
  3. Together with your mentoring partner, establish your own timetable for your one-on-one meetings, which should take place at least monthly throughout the program.
  4. Complete short surveys as you progress through the program.
Will discussions between mentees and mentors be confidential?

Absolutely! Great mentoring relationships are based first and foremost on trust. Your participation in the program is confidential and you will agree with your mentoring partner on how you will handle confidentiality between you.

Cadetship program

To continue giving a strong start to our new generation of planners, in May 2023, we 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 $1.85 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 NSW councils, particularly 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.

From 19 May until 9 June 2023, councils were invited to apply for grants of $25,000 to fund planning cadets’ university tuition. We received stronger than anticipated interest with applications exceeding available grants. In response to this we expanded the program to allow all 74 councils that applied to receive one grant.

For more information about our Strong Start Cadetship program read the program guidelines (PDF, 977 KB) and the information pack for councils participating in the program (PDF, 2.1 MB).

List of councils receiving funding for the Strong Start Cadetship program

The following councils applied for and received grants of $25,000 to fund planning cadets’ university tuition:

  1. Albury City Council
  2. Armidale Regional Council
  3. Ballina Shire Council
  4. Bathurst Regional Council
  5. Bayside Council
  6. Bega Valley Shire Council
  7. Bellingen Shire Council
  8. Blayney Shire Council
  9. Bogan Shire Council
  10. Broken Hill City Council
  11. Byron Shire Council
  12. Cabonne Council
  13. Campbelltown City Council
  14. Cessnock City Council
  15. Clarence Valley Council
  16. Cobar Shire Council
  17. Coffs Harbour City Council
  18. Coolamon Shire Council
  19. Coonamble Shire Council
  20. Cowra Shire Council
  21. Cumberland Council
  22. Dubbo Regional Council
  23. Dungog Shire Council
  24. Edward River Council
  25. Eurobodalla Shire Council
  26. Fairfield City Council
  27. Forbes Shire Council
  28. Glen Innes Severn Council
  29. Goulburn Mulwaree Council
  30. Greater Hume Shire Council
  31. Griffith City Council
  32. Gunnedah Shire Council
  33. Inverell Shire Council
  34. Junee Shire Council
  35. Kempsey Shire Council
  36. Lake Macquarie City Council
  37. Lismore City Council
  38. Liverpool Plains Shire Council
  39. Mid-Coast Council
  40. Mid-Western Regional Council
  41. Moree Plains Shire Council
  42. Mosman Municipal Council
  43. Murray River Council
  44. Muswellbrook Shire Council
  45. Narrabri Shire Council
  46. Newcastle City Council
  47. Oberon Council
  48. Orange City Council
  49. Port Stephens Council
  50. Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council
  51. Randwick City Council
  52. Shellharbour City Council
  53. Shoalhaven City Council
  54. Singleton Council
  55. Snowy Valleys Council
  56. Strathfield Municipal Council
  57. Sutherland Shire Council
  58. Tamworth Regional Council
  59. The Council of the Municipality of Hunters Hill
  60. The Council of the Shire of Hornsby
  61. The Hills Shire Council
  62. Tweed Shire Council
  63. Upper Lachlan Shire Council
  64. Uralla Shire Council
  65. Wagga Wagga City Council
  66. Walgett Shire Council
  67. Warrumbungle Shire Council
  68. Waverley Council
  69. Weddin Shire Council
  70. Wentworth Shire Council
  71. Willoughby City Council
  72. Wingecarribee Shire Council
  73. Wollondilly Shire Council
  74. Yass Valley Council

Diploma of Local Government (Planning)

Budding planners in NSW now have a TAFE pathway into the planning profession.

The Diploma of Local Government (Planning) is specifically designed for candidates in New South Wales who are looking to gain skills in para planning, a role that manages administrative functions and provides valuable support to planners.

The course has been adapted from TAFE South Australia’s (TAFE SA) curriculum to reflect planning practices in NSW through a collaboration between the Department of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure, TAFE, Local Government NSW and the Planning Institute of Australia.

The diploma is offered online by TAFE SA and can be completed on a part-time basis.

To learn more about the course and enrol, visit the TAFE SA website.

Using Strong Start Cadetship grants to fund a cadet’s Diploma

Councils participating in the Strong Start Cadetship program can use grant funds to fully subsidise their cadets’ Diploma of Local Government (Planning), if the cadet is enrolled in the course before 30 June 2024. Students who enrol before 30 June can begin the course on 22 July 2024.

Councils wanting to use their Strong Start Cadetship funding, please enrol cadets in the TAFE Diploma via TAFE SA and then email [email protected] so that we can administer a variation to your Strong Start Cadetship funding agreement.

More information

For more information about any of our Strong Start initiatives, email [email protected]