FAQs for Candidates

Read the answers to our Frequently Asked Questions about eligibility and requirements, the application process, types of placements, being employed as an Associate, the L&D Course, and what happens beyond the placement.


What are the eligibility criteria to become an Associate?
To apply for an Associate position, you must:

  • Have a minimum of three years’ experience working in a built environment background such as Architecture, Civil Engineering, Conservation & Heritage, Landscape Architecture, Mechanical Engineering, Project Management, Real Estate, Structural Engineering, Town & City Planning, Transport Planning or Urban Design.

  • Be available to take on an employment contract for either 12 months or longer from the start date listed on the website.

  • Be willing to consider a full-time salary of £30,000 – £55,000 (pro-rata).

  • Be willing to consider a placement with an Authority or another public-sector body within England.

  • Be eligible to work in the UK.

  • Not have been through our Associate Programme before.

Do I need to have public sector experience to apply?
No, there is no requirement for Applicants to have previous experience working in the public sector. Applicants without public sector experience will not be at a disadvantage to Applicants with public sector experience.

Am I eligible if I have already worked in the public sector?
Yes, applications are welcomed from practitioners with experience of working in the public sector. Applicants with public sector experience will be expected to demonstrate the added value of taking up a role through Public Practice over their existing role, or how it would enable them to make a step-change in their career.

Am I eligible if I am an Alum of the programme?
No, if you have already participated in the programme as an Associate, you are not eligible to apply again.

Do I need a professional qualification or accreditation to apply?
No, there are no requirements around professional qualifications or accreditations to apply for the programme. You must simply have a minimum of three years of relevant work experience. A small number of placements may require Associates to have a professional qualification or accreditation, however, this is the exception, not the norm.

Do I need to be currently employed to apply?
Applicants do not need to be employed to apply. We welcome applications from Applicants who are self-employed, have taken a career break, are currently unemployed or currently in employment. Your employment status will not affect how your application is assessed.

What if I need a visa to remain and work in the UK?
Public Practice and the Authorities we work with are not able to assist with any visa applications and do not hold a sponsorship licence. Candidates who do not hold a confirmed working visa for at least 12 months from the start of the programme are not eligible to apply.

A right-to-work check based on a valid passport and/or confirmed work visa is done before Applicants are invited to an Assessment Day.


Can I submit my initial (online) application in an alternative format?
If, for accessibility reasons, you cannot submit the initial application using the online form, we are happy for you to submit your application in an alternative format. Please email [email protected] or call 020 3858 7447 to discuss your requirements.

What do you mean by current and minimum salary?
We ask for you to provide both your current salary (annual gross, full-time equivalent) and the minimum salary (annual gross, full-time equivalent) you will be willing to consider from your placement as we appreciate these figures may differ. This information helps us to better understand your situation and assists with shortlisting.

At the matching stage, we will not consider candidates for any roles that are below their minimum salary requirement. When considering minimum salary requirements, it is also worth remembering that local authority benefits, such as holiday and pension provisions, could be more generous than at your current or previous employer.

What if I am unable to attend the Assessment Days?
All candidates must attend an Assessment Day. If you cannot make the date you are offered, we will try to accommodate you at another. Assessment Days are the best way for Public Practice to gain a clear understanding of your experience and personal qualities. Assessment Days are carried out online via Zoom, using a number of digital assessment techniques.

Is the venue for the Assessment Day accessible?
The Assessment Day is carried out online via Zoom. You will have the opportunity to inform us of any additional requirements you have once your application is shortlisted.

Who are the assessors?
The assessment of Applicants at the online application stage is supported by a group of around 70+ expert assessors. Our expert assessors are experienced public sector placemaking practitioners. At Assessment Days, officers from host Authorities will participate in the days as Assessors.

How does matching work?
If you are successful at the Assessment Day, you will be invited to the next stage – the matching stage. Public Practice will consider your skills, experience and preferences when matching you to a placement. During the matching stage, if we have a role that is suitable for you, we will send you a Placement Pack outlining the role and ask for a statement of interest, which we will use to introduce you to the Authority. You will then meet with the Authority directly.

Candidates have the opportunity to decline matches that they do not feel are suitable. Where matches are declined, Public Practice will endeavour to rematch Applicants with an alternative placement. However, this is the exception, not the norm.

If selected, when would I need to tell my current employer?
Selected candidates must inform their current employers in time to serve their notice period before the start of the programme. Host Authorities will be informed of your notice period when a match is made. Once a formal job offer is made, the host Authorities will generally seek to collect a reference from your current employer before offering an employment contract.

Is there a fee for taking part in the programme?
No, Associates do not pay a fee to participate in the programme. Your host Authority will pay you a salary of between £30,000 – £55,000 on your placement. Public Practice and your host Authority cover the cost of your training on the L&D Course. The seven in-person days are in different locations across England. This means a few days of the year may be some distance from your home. We will confirm these locations in advance so you can make travel arrangements. You will be required to pay for your transport to and from the seven in-person days.


What types of roles are Associates placed in?
We offer roles that go beyond standard job descriptions. They might range from developing a design code for a garden town, to starting up a housebuilding programme to trialling co-design with tenants; from reshaping the strategy for a town centre to rethinking an Authority’s approach to small sites.

Who might I be working for as an Associate?
Public Practice places Associates in public organisations: local or city government, combined authorities, development corporations, publicly-led delivery vehicles, or groups of more than one Authority sharing a role. Currently, Public Practice places Associates across England. Take a look at the Members page to see who has hosted a placement to date.

Are all the placements hosted within Planning departments?
No, our placements range across and between multiple departments, from Planning to Housing, to Regeneration and Economic Development and Assets.


How are Associates employed?
Associates are employed directly by their host Authority on either fixed-term contracts, or permanent contracts.

How does being an Associate work with existing employment?
Associates normally leave their current jobs to become Public Practice Associates, but you could also negotiate a secondment with your current employer if this is something they offer.

Can I start the placement late?
All Associates are expected to start their placements at either the beginning of April or October, depending on which recruitment round they applied. For those candidates who have long notice periods, some placements may start a little later than others in their cohort, but this is the exception, not the norm.

Is it possible to join the programme on a part-time basis?
Yes, a number of our Associates teach, run their own companies or pursue other projects or courses alongside becoming a Public Practice Associate. However, any part-time placements do require a minimum placement commitment of 3 days per week. Applicants will have the opportunity to state their preference for part-time or full-time working arrangements as part of our recruitment process. This preference will inform matching to placements.

Are flexible working arrangements available?
Whether an Associate is able to work on a compressed hours contract or have flexible working arrangements is wholly up to the public organisation they are matched with. Flexible working arrangements should be discussed directly with the Authority once a match has been made. Hybrid (online and in-office) working has become more common at many Authorities and generally there is an expectation that Associates go into the office at least once a week.

Will I need to relocate to take up a placement?
Commute times are taken into consideration when matching Associates to placements, and Public Practice endeavours to offer Associates placements within reasonable commutes from their homes. Applicants have the opportunity to state whether they are willing to consider relocating to take up a placement during the application process. Willingness to relocate will increase your probability of being matched.

What happens if my personal circumstances change when in placement?
Throughout the programme, you will be directly employed by your host Authority, or by your current employer through a secondment agreement. You will be entitled to all statutory rights afforded to employees. If your personal circumstances change, such as becoming ill or having a child, you will be entitled to all benefits set out by your statutory rights as an employee, for example, sick leave or maternity/paternity pay.


What is the structure of the L&D Course?
By becoming a Public Practice Associate you will benefit from participating in a Learning and Development Course. Up to 16 days within your placement are designated for attending this programme.

What are the expected outputs whilst on the programme?
We ask for Associates to attend all 16 course days, take part in a group Talks series and submit feedback reports during the 12-month programme.

Will I be expected to do any work in my own time?
You do not need to take annual leave to attend a course day as it counts as a regular working day. We endeavour to limit the amount of an Associate's own time spent on the programme, however, you may have to prepare before a session or for the Talks series.

Am I required to attend the L&D Course?
Yes, all Associates are expected to attend 80% of the L&D days as a minimum. Minimum L&D attendance rates are proportionate to the number of days you are working with your Authority. Failure to meet the minimum attendance rate may result in the termination of your position as an Associate.


Will I be employed by my host Authority after the placement ends?
The decision to employ Associates beyond the duration of the programme is made by the host Authority alone and is subject to their own internal HR policies. Public Practice offers employment support to all Associates towards the end of the programme but cannot guarantee that all Associates will be offered employment with their host Authorities beyond the placement.

Will I be able to extend my placement?
Many host Authorities and Associates extend their employment contract beyond the initial placement period. This is something that is negotiated directly between the Authority and the Associate.

Will I stay connected with Public Practice after the programme ends?
At the end of the 12-month programme, you will join our Alum network. We encourage Alums to remain active in our online communities and by attending our advocacy opportunities.