I joined the Trust for a two-week work placement at a rather unusual time. My start date marked the commencement of an office move, the second week in the job for Dave Rumble, the new CEO of the Trust, and the sixth month anniversary of Covid-19 being declared a global pandemic. All in all, this made for an interesting experience!
I am a final year Geography undergrad, studying at the University of Birmingham. With my graduation date looming and thereby, the prospect of having to get an actual job; I felt that it was important to gain some practical work experience. Prior to my two weeks at the Trust, I have had short term placements with the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and Birmingham Friends of the Earth. However, as my degree has become increasingly focussed on river restoration and hydrology, the Wessex Rivers Trust was a perfect fit.
I arranged my placement in mid-June by getting in direct email contact with Mike Blackmore (Head of Project Delivery). Despite the uncertainty surrounding lockdown, it was all very straightforward and luckily for me, as September rolled around, restrictions had been sufficiently relaxed so that I was able to meet the team, work in the office and attend site visits.
Overall, my two weeks were incredibly informative. Their work spans over a wide catchment and incorporates varied river flows, land ownership and a range of biodiversity. Whilst my degree has so far equipped me with a lot of the theoretical knowledge required to understand fluvial processes; it is rare that I have been able to experience them in practise. Over the fortnight, I assisted with an assortment of tasks that helped consolidate my past learning. This included: mapping potential restoration sites, researching and writing an essay on the benefits of blue spaces to mental health, taking photos to track the progress of completed restoration projects and writing blog posts like this one! The team were more than happy to take the time to explain specific aspects of their work in depth and help me in any way that they could with my dissertation.
Furthermore, I have had an interesting insight into how covid is re-shaping working practises. Two meter spaced desks were set up in the new office with cleaning and antiseptic products available throughout. Team members operated from home and office as best suited to their personal circumstances, yet without impeding productivity. The Trust was fortunate that they did not have to take advantage of the furlough scheme as it was practically and safely possible to continue working from home through lockdown. For me, this taught a great deal about the future of environmental organisations and potentially how the wider charitable sector can lead the way for commerce.
Regardless of whether I choose to pursue a career in river restoration, my two weeks have taught me a great deal more about the natural environment around me. I have lived in Salisbury for more than ten years and my home is situated approximately 10 miles from the River Test. Yet, I feel that I have learnt more about the rivers’ characteristics during my time with the Trust than I have in over a decade.
Ultimately, I would encourage all students interested in careers within the environmental sector to actively seek out work placements. From my brief experience, organisations can vary in a number of factors from their main aims and extent of focus to their management styles and company hierarchy. I feel it is important to gain as much insight as possible before deciding between future career options.
After all, as the reality of the working world gets closer, who knows maybe I will have the fortunate opportunity to apply to work for the Trust?