Urban Plan, an outreach programme which teaches students about the intricacies of urban property development and regeneration, will be expanding to 40 schools and 1,200 students in the next year.
There’s no simple way to solve the challenge of increasing diversity across property and financial services, but a scheme led by some of the UK’s FTSE100-listed real estate companies is seeking to engage young people through a state school outreach programme.
Urban Plan was set up a year ago by Urban Land Institute (ULI), a not for profit education and research organisation, adapting a successful programme that has been running in the US for over 10 years.
Urban Plan counts major developers such as Land Securities, Grosvenor, British Land and Hammerson among its supporters. Since June 2015, the scheme has reached over 500 sixth form pupils in schools across the country, with the help of 200 volunteers from the property industry.
“As one of Urban Plan’s founding partners British Land is delighted to see the progress that has been made in its first year,” said Emma Cariaga, Project Director at British Land. “This fantastic initiative encourages large numbers of young people from all walks of life to discover the property industry and the huge array of job opportunities available to them.”
Sixth form students are engaged via a mix of case studies, with workshops and team activities focused around the regeneration of a blighted urban site. Students form teams to act as property companies bidding to redevelop an imaginary city centre site, based on proposals issued by a fictional local authority.
They put forward a financial bid for the land and for a regeneration scheme that meets specified physical and social requirements. The aim is to inspire those with creative and business acumen to look at potential careers, irrespective of background.
ULI provides 3D printed models to help students visualise their schemes, together with an app which shows them the financial impact of their ideas and whether they have met key criteria such as proportions of affordable housing on site, with industry volunteers judging the winning proposal.
The scheme has received overwhelmingly positive feedback, with 95% of pupils and 100% of the teachers rating the initiative as good or excellent. “Urban Plan is an example of what collaboration across large business can deliver,” said Simon Clark. “Crucially, there’s a high degree of social impact for a very modest outlay. We’re delighted with the initial feedback and are keen to see more supporters come on board as we expand the programme.”
ULI’s aim is to teach students about the essential principles of urban planning and regeneration, provide them with transferable business skills, and even get some of them thinking about the property world as a career path.
By working with state schools, the initiative reaches out to students that may not have considered real estate as a career option, due to the limited opportunities to learn about the sector generally on offer.
Backing for the project has been provided by some of UK property’s biggest names, including British Land, Land Securities, Grosvenor, The Westminster Foundation, Hammerson and Strutt & Parker.
“Urban Plan is important as these students are the future,” said Lucy Barratt, Sustainability Project Assistant at Grosvenor, said. “They will help define and shape the places where we live and work, and without even being aware of it yet, they bring the insight and the knowledge into how places should be adapting to suit the needs of future generations. Empowering students is important, as often they have the capabilities and the skies, but are not yet aware of how they can express that.
“As a company with a long-term approach, it is important for us to support a programme like Urban Plan as it allows us to broaden our relationships with these schools, but to engage with a huge pool of talent and enthusiasm.”