Look around your local area or along your route to work, and chances are there's somewhere that needs to be regenerated. The houses may be run-down, the shops and park neglected, the walls covered in graffiti. The inhabitants may face rising unemployment, health problems and crime.
So what can be done? Enter the regenerator; a person whose aim is to help turn around a neighbourhood that in one way or another has failed. Regenerators come in all shapes and sizes: whether urban designers, technical planners, childcare workers or volunteers running neighbourhood-watch schemes. "Regeneration is a complicated field because it covers kind of everything, but we want people to know there is such a thing as a regenerator," says Jess Steele, deputy chief executive at BURA, the British Urban Regeneration Association.
BURA was set up in 1990 but it was only this year that it coined the term "regenerator" for a new initiative to support and develop people in the field. "People ask us how to get into regeneration. What we do is help them meet potential employers," explains Steele.
But there's still some confusion about what regeneration entails. Most local authorities have regeneration departments, but they may be called urban renewal, neighbourhood management or community services. And it's rare to find the word "regeneration" when doing a job search; you're more likely to find vacancies for project managers and development workers. However, many local authorities do have regeneration officers, usually in cities. The role may mean working on a large project like developing a city's docklands or getting a community-based business off the ground.
Salaries start at around £20,000 a year, increasing to £34,000 for senior posts. Entry is usually with a relevant degree - such as planning or business studies - and experience. However, BURA says the fact that employers tend to only consider people with traditional backgrounds is holding the sector back. It has developed a "Bright Sparks" programme to encourage a wider variety of candidates, such as youth workers, child minders or those who have led community campaigns.
Michael Stallard is on the more traditional side of regeneration; he's a town and country planner working for the engineering consultancy Hyder Consulting, in Warrington. He assesses if development proposals follow government policy. This has included tram schemes in Liverpool, Birmingham and London, which will increase access into an area and thereby form part of a regeneration project. He's also been asked to help with proposals for schools, community facilities, parks and gardens. "The work is rewarding because I've always been interested in environmental protection," says Stallard. "We assess the effects of development and have some influence."
Ed Dingwall, on the other hand, works on the "soft" side of regeneration. He's a community arts administrator based at Friern Barnet School in London, running drama, film and music classes. He's also involved in an international film festival in Bognor Regis, a new initiative to bring film to a deprived area. "I'm artistically inclined and I try to make that count for something in a more social way," says Dingwall. " That's what led me to this."
Chimeme Egbutah finds her work similarly rewarding. She's a health inequalities officer for Luton Borough Council which, among other things, means she is involved in health impact assessments on regeneration; the implications of airport expansion, for example.
Her role includes creating sustainable communities, with good social networks and easy access to basic facilities. Housing is another crucial area: "If we don't influence how houses are built in the future then we're just rebuilding ghettos."
Egbutah has a degree in human biology and health science, a postgraduate diploma in health promotion and is doing an MA in public health and urban renewal. "I'm loving it," she says. "Regeneration is very easy to get into if you're passionate about improving people's lifestyles."
Regeneration jobs are advertised in trade journals such as 'Regeneration and Renewal' (www.regen.net) and 'New Start' ( www.newstartmag.co.uk) .
To find local government vacancies try www.lgjobs.com and check your local council website, as well as local and national newspapers.
BURA ( www.bura.org.uk) has an Introduction to Regeneration event in Stratford on January 24 for those interested in learning more about careers in the sectorReuse content