Applying for a placement didn’t seem like a practical option for me. I felt like I needed to keep my part-time job for a steady income throughout my time at university... because how else could I afford my luxurious (not) lifestyle of fast food and Uber trips? It turns out I needed to think outside of the box and come up with a more creative solution.
Day after day, I received emails advertising the EA summer placement, and because of the encouragement I got from the Professional Development Centre (PDC for short!), I decided to apply for it. I also quit my warehouse job which, frankly speaking, I did not enjoy.
I’m not going to lie... it was a stressful time, as my workload was massive at the time, but my placement advisor at the PDC was very supportive and gave me plenty of guidance (thank you Stephania!). This really motivated me to put my application in and prepare for the interview. I honestly would not have been able to do it without her help.
I am studying Environmental Sciences BSc, so working for the EA is a wonderful opportunity to enhance my CV and to learn more about the job roles available to me once I graduate. So, when I received a call telling me I was accepted for the Environment Assistant role in the South London Land & Water team I was thrilled!
Before starting my placement, I had a chance to visit the office and meet my team. This was great as the first day at work wasn’t a scary experience as I knew how to get to the office and what to expect. There was also an Induction Day for all the placement students... look at these delicious cupcakes that were made especially for us:
From my first day, I knew the EA was going to be a fantastic place to work in, as everyone is very approachable and friendly. This turned out to be true for everyone I had met during my time there. This made asking for help easy, which I believe is really important when starting a new job.
You may be curious as to what I got up to as an Environment Assistant, so here it is:
- I was given responsibilities in the office such as duty desk (which involved accepting incident reports and passing them onto the relevant teams); managing the team inbox; responding to queries and many more administrative tasks!
I suggest you have a look at more info about reporting environmental incidents here.
- My role was mostly office-based but I had plenty of opportunities to go to other places, such as other EA offices to work for other teams e.g. HNL L&W team based in Welwyn Garden City.
- Hostile situations, chemical aeration, water quality... these are just a few of the training sessions offered at the agency which I participated in. These were in varied locations from Addington to Reading. Chemical aeration was especially fun, as we were taught how to set up the pump which is used during incidents to increase dissolved oxygen levels to save the fish!
- I also had a chance to visit Mogden Sewage Treatment Works (Thames Water’s 3rd largest) for a site tour and a liaison meeting. Luckily it wasn’t smelly as they have odour protection measures in place as it is surrounded by housing!
- I went on site visits with the waste team and abstraction licence visits with the L&W team to a farm and plant nursery.
- I organised an Outcome day to Southend - we did a beach clean, strandline survey, and the Yellow Fish Campaign.
- I had the opportunity to go to a minor incident and see an officer in action. This involved using a multimeter which measured lots of different things. Its name speaks for itself: pH, temperature, DO (dissolved oxygen) etc.
- The agency encourages self-development, even when I was not attending training sessions I was able to access lots of e-learning resources on their intranet to learn about a variety of things such as agricultural law, coastal issues etc.
The placement has had a positive impact on my life. In my opinion, the most valuable thing I gained from the EA are friendships with like-minded people! I will definitely be applying again next year, and this time the process will not be as daunting as I know the struggle is worth it!