June 9, 2021, by lzzeb

My internships at The Environment Agency Incident Management and Flood Technical Support Officer at Trent River Trust

A blog by Caith Petro MSc Environmental Leadership and Management 2020/21

When I started my MSc Environmental Leadership and management course one of my major concerns was how I was going to gain the relevant experience in the environmental sector that is important in my career progress. This was particularly daunting as an international student because I had no idea how and where I could find or apply for internships especially given the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic. I was therefore very excited to know that the University of Nottingham had a Post graduate placement program that offered students the opportunity to go on internships with various partner organisations in relevant fields.

Naturally I applied for as many internships as I could given there were many to choose from. The process was very straightforward as I had assistance and simply filled out place application forms which I sent in with my CV. I was glad that the interviews were remotely based as this allowed me to have them whilst still in my home country Zimbabwe as I prepared to travel to the UK. I got offered two internships, one as a Natural Flood Technical support officer with the Trent River Trust and the second as an Incident Management and flood resilience intern with the Environment Agency. I accepted both opportunities as I felt I could benefit from both internships because they offered different experiences and skills.

At the Environment Agency the internship was 7 weeks and was working with the Incident Management department where I got to attend seminars meetings and workshops that exposed me to technical and theoretical aspects of Multi-Agency Incident Management as well as Incident response and flood resilience and warning. I also got to understand the Environment Agency’s organisational structure in addition to its role definitions and response structure. I got to talk to various people in various positions to understand what their roles entailed, what skills where needed to assume such roles and how they worked with other teams to protect the natural environment and communities in the event of a flood or other environmental incidents. Additionally, through my internship supervisor I was given the opportunity for career guidance and tips on how to apply to the Environment Agency should I wish to in the near future.

As a Natural Flood Technical support officer with the Trent River Trust, I was part of a team that was conducting opportunity mapping as a tool for natural flood management for the Derbyshire County council in the Eyam catchment. The role involved the use of hydrological information and processes as well as GIS to identify natural interventions in the catchment that would help reduce the local community’s exposure to flooding. I gained valuable skills in data collection, data analysis and report writing during the course of the placement.

With both placements I was able to apply practically, theoretical concepts I was learning in my course as well as develop new skills. Although most of the placement was desk based, as a Natural Flood Technical support officer, I went on a field trip to Eyam for data collection which I enjoyed and got to have a sense of the natural environment in England. At the Environment Agency I also enjoyed getting to know the broad context of the environmental sector and how to collaborate with other organisations to meet goals. Furthermore, by working remotely I also improved my self-organisation and self-starter skills. The interview process also helped me improve my interview skills and confidence.

Although safe and convenient given the COVID 19 pandemic having the internships conducted remotely had its challenges. It limited my exposure to the workplace environment and other activities I could have participated in that would have helped me acquire technical skills. Never the less my supervisors for both the internships maintained a clear line of communication and made sure I was as engaged as possible throughout the placements.

I encourage all students to apply for placements especially international students even if they don’t have required skills or experience as it is a good opportunity to develop new skills and gain exposure to the UK work environment. It is also a good opportunity for networking which can come handy after graduation. Going into the internships with enthusiasm and inquisitiveness is not only important in enjoying the process but is also key to extracting as much value from the opportunity as possible.

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