I worked in the IT industry for many years and like many reached a point during the first lockdown in 2020 where I questioned whether I was on the right career path. I wanted to do something that I felt would contribute more and maybe make a small difference to the world. In July 2020 I spoke to Kelly Hemmings about the Royal Agricultural University’s Wildlife Conservation Foundation degree. I was hooked, gave up my job and started as a full-time mature student in September 2020.
As part of the Foundation degree all students need to complete a 30-day work placement before they can start the second year. I found a great placement with the Cotswolds National Landscape, they are a small team, so I had the opportunity to work with everyone during my time there and experience the many different roles that are needed to keep an AONB going. I really enjoyed the work and the team, and I made the most of my time with them. When a new part time role came up working for the Cotswolds National Landscape in September I jumped at the chance.
At the end of November I started as the Evenlode Catchment Partnership Community Outreach Officer working two days a week, within a team of three. The roles are funded by Thames Water and we are working to develop a programme of activities to show the relevance of the river and its catchment within the community. We will be helping meet these aims by encouraging people to understand the benefits of a healthy river environment; helping them access and enjoy nature; and by engaging with schools – to help inspire younger generations to connect with their local stretch of river, learn about healthy river environments and nature, and act to take positive action to care for and ecologically improve the River Evenlode and its catchment.
We are working with many organisations and schools already - Farm-Ed, Wychwood Forest Trust, Combe Mill, Daylesford and the North East Cotswolds Farm Cluster to name just a few. I have found that the knowledge I have from my course so far has really helped me connect with those organisations, building trust and enabling us to collaborate quickly. I plan to continue at the RAU next year to take the BSc top up in Wildlife and Countryside Management while working part time for the Cotswolds National Landscape. To have this opportunity to work in the conservation sector so soon after leaving my corporate job is amazing and does show the importance of work placements for future job opportunities.
Picture Credit: Russell Sach, for Cotswolds National Landscape.
Find out more about FdSc British Wildlife Conservation by clicking here.