Career Spotlight: Urban Design and Town Planning | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Career Spotlight: Urban Design and Town Planning

When you think of Urban Design and Town Planning, your mind probably wanders to the days your child played SimCity on the computer. But this game is a reality for USC graduate Mitch Tilly who is now an Urban Designer helping to influence and shape the future of the rapidly growing Moreton Bay region.

USC Parent Lounge recently spoke with Mitch about how his degree prepared him for a rewarding career in the urban design and town planning industry.

What did you study at USC and when did you graduate? I studied a Bachelor of Urban Design and Town Planning at USC’s Sunshine Coast campus and graduated at the end of 2019 with first class honours.

Why did you decide to study this degree? I actually started an Engineering degree with USC whilst I was still in Year 11 through USC’s Headstart program. After a year of studying Engineering I knew that this wasn’t exactly right for me so I started looking for career pathways in a similar industry. I found the Bachelor of Urban Design and Town Planning and not knowing what a Town Planner was I did some more research and found it to be the perfect mix of Science and Engineering as well as Social Sciences, Law and Communication.

What was your favourite thing about your degree? How did it prepare you? My favourite part about studying my degree was how hands on the process was, part of the Urban Design and Town Planning program includes a four-week work practicum. USC also provided me many additional opportunities to gain industry experience including supporting me in a year long internship working on a revitalisation strategy for Nambour, a one month fellowship experience living and learning in the slums of India and Nepal, and a position on multiple different Planning Institute of Australia committees and working groups.

What are you doing now? How would you describe your journey since graduating? What have been some of your proud moments? I was very fortunate in my final year of study to gain a job as a Development Assessment Planner with the Sunshine Coast Council. This experience set me up to gain a full time position as an Urban Designer with Moreton Bay Regional Council this year. The Urban Design and Place Making team is part of MBRC’s Strategic Planning department making this position the perfect mix of my qualification in both design and planning. Whilst due to COVID-19 my cohort hasn’t been able to celebrate at our graduation ceremony, one of the proud moments of my degree was getting a full-time graduate level position in the fourth year of my degree, a goal I had set myself from the start.

What does an ‘average’ day in your job look like? An average day as an Urban Designer ranges from working on small scale projects, such as streetscape interventions, up to big picture issues such as studies on built-forms in the region. Regardless of the scale of the project being an urban designer requires both design knowledge and communication skills as all design projects require consultation with different stakeholder groups from a wide range of disciplines.

How is your industry changing? The planning industry is changing to encompass a more design related focus to help tackle some of the big issues facing us today. A greater level of ‘design thinking’ is required to assist the planning industry to adapt to new ways of doing things. Having my qualification in both urban design and town planning has given me an edge in my field to have knowledge and experience in both fields linking the two industries closer together.

What is something about your career/industry that many people don’t know? I think that most people don’t know what the role of a town planner is. Town planning is fundamental to all aspects of our built and natural environment, from the suburb where you live or the road or public transport network that helps you get to work, through to implementing the flood and bushfire hazard modelling keeping people and property safe, or the environmental standard preserving our natural assets.

What is your favourite thing about your job/career? Definitely the widespread career possibilities. My USC degree not only gives me accreditation in all commonwealth countries, but it also allows me to work for local, state and federal governments in departments and areas from economic development, national parks, development assessment, placemaking and design. I can also work in the private sector for consultancies, planning, design and project management firms as well as non-government organisations. Having a career as both a designer and planner allows me to ‘change tracks’, grow with experience and try new things throughout my work life.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about a career in your area/studying your degree? My advice is to do some research, see the possibilities out there that interest you, reach out to the industry and university to have a chat to professionals working in your chosen field and to give it a go! In general, my advice to future students is to try and try again: don’t be afraid to ‘try on’ a degree - it’s easy to change your mind later, and more importantly don’t be afraid to try something that you haven’t heard of before!

Applications to study in 2021 are open now. If your child has questions about uni or is wondering what to expect, they can chat online with a real USC student and find out everything they need to know to get started. We’re online Monday – Friday, 10am – 5pm.

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