A sort of homecoming

Joe Corr MIPI

Thankfully many of our members are now benefiting from the growth in the economy and things are looking brighter than they have in recent years when the profession was thrown into turmoil by the largest economic crash in the history of the State. As convenor of the Membership and Professional Conduct Committee, I and my colleagues have noticed a major increase in membership applications since the beginning of 2016. The applications are across the board really and there is a good spread of student, graduate and corporate memberships being sought. That bodes extremely well for the future of the Irish Planning Profession.

During the Recession years, many of our members chose to travel overseas to find work as the economic downturn took hold. A large number of planners working in the private sector found that work had dried up and were left in very precarious situations, to say the least. Planners lost jobs, planning practices ceased trading or reduced staff dramatically whilst graduate planners saw no short to medium term future prospects in staying at home in Ireland, merely to sit out the dreadful recession that had gripped the country.

In response to this, the Irish Planning Institute sought to support those planners who felt compelled to find work abroad. One of the solutions was to seek reciprocal recognition agreements with some of the destination countries most of our planners were choosing to travel to. As many of you have experienced and witnessed, there was a large cohort of planners who travelled to the southern hemisphere with a view to finding employment in the profession they loved, not to mention a profession they studied hard to qualify in.

For our part, the IPI recognised the need to support our planners who were travelling abroad so we embarked on a process that would offer support to them as they sought out potential employment. An agreement was arrived at with the planning institutes of Australia and New Zealand. This made life much easier for planners who had successfully obtained work permits and even may have enhanced their chance of getting a Visa. That was just one example of how the IPI supported our membership during the recessionary years in Ireland.

By the way, that’s not to say that we were happy to ship all of our planners off to foreign shores never to be seen again. There is a benefit for people who are travelling abroad to work, and that benefit is that they return home with a far wider knowledge of their profession and good experience of working in an environment that in some cases can be very different to what they are used to. Not just that, they must work in a system they may not be familiar with and maybe even at a disadvantage to their colleagues who have come through the local education system. Sometimes these situations were a far cry from what their experience has been in Ireland and planners had to punch above their weight, sometimes under tough conditions. But that’s not a negative situation to be in. All it proves is that our planners have arrived in Australia or New Zealand with a skillset that has been accumulated via the Irish system, a skillset that sets them aside from other members of their international profession. Their qualifications and their membership of the IPI being unquestionable.

Those Irish planners who travelled abroad didn’t work as nomadic practitioners. Not a chance. They networked and sought each other out. That’s how we saw the emergence of the London Irish Town Planners (LITP) Network. Not just made up of Irish planners but including members with an affinity for Ireland and all things Irish. Their Mission Statement (although they probably don’t call it that) states the following:

 “The LITP Network aims to provide a platform for professional planners based in London with an affinity to the island of Ireland. The network is built upon this affinity within an apolitical and non-denominational context. It aims to provide a network and resource for planners based in London at all stages in their career and provide an opportunity to forge and develop professional relationships”

The wonderful thing about networks like the LITP is that it offers a social as well as professional support and makes life that bit easier while living and working away from home.

So here’s looking forward to a lift in the economy that will see many of the planners who left Ireland return home with a broader experience and understanding of the planning profession. This experience is vital in making a meaningful contribution to the Irish planning profession by bringing back with them a perspective that could not have been formed without their courage to grasp the nettle of emigration.

 So the message from the IPI is this, we were happy that you chose to travel abroad for work during the bad times and we hope you benefitted from our support, but now that things are looking up we want you back and we will offer any professional support we can to facilitate your return. One of the elements that you may find very helpful is the “Jobs” section of our website. Whether you’re still abroad or recently returned or even someone who has remained in Ireland during the downturn, keep your eye on the IPI website to learn about any job opportunities that might arise. Additionally, I would welcome contact from people who may have let their membership lapse during the bad times or while they were abroad, to see if we can encourage you to join up again and reinstate your IPI membership. I’m certain you will benefit from being part of the IPI professional network.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of the IPI nor are they intended to reflect IPI policy.        

Joe Corr MIPI
Membership Secretary