A Harper placement year is often the highlight of a student’s time at the university, seeing them go out into the working world and put their knowledge to the test by resolving challenges that may come their way.
Alex Jefferies, a BSc (Hons) Rural Property Management student, spent her placement year with the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) as part of their Land Management team of Rural Surveyors based at Catterick. Following a successful year, she shared her academic journey so far and what her placement year taught her.
Alex had always known she loved being outdoors in the countryside, developing an interest in land and property management while at sixth form. Although university had not been part of her life plan at this point, visiting a friend already at Harper Adams instilled in her that this campus was the one for her.
“Not one day is the same studying at Harper,” Alex commented. “The support from the Rural Enterprise and Land Management and Rural Property Management lecturers is incredible.”
Alex spoke about her role during her placement year: “I worked as part of the DIO Land Management team of Rural Surveyors; they are responsible for the Training Estate sites in the North of England and up to the Scottish Border.
“I acted as an assistant land agent and shadowed the senior estate surveyor. I spent time liaising with tenants, compensating for military damage claims, creating particulars and viewing days for a farm re-let, terminating, and creating licences. I also worked on some residential properties and undertook some commercial work.”
While Alex had many successes, she shared her favourite experience, commenting: A highlight for me was creating a training day for approximately twenty land agents from across the country for Continuing Professional Development. I organized the speaker, food and venue.
“I was also given a ‘Green Works’ task for the local nature reserve where I was able to create a specification for works that needed completing with their annual allowance, send tenders to local contractors and carry out regular inspections to make sure work was on track.”
For all her successes, Alex did find the changes that the coronavirus brought a challenge. She said: “Working from home for so long after always being out on site somewhere was difficult. However, I was always needed and felt very a part of the team even without being in the office.”
Alex’s line manager on placement, Graham Newcombe, spoke about her performance over the year. He said: “Alex did form a key part of the team and soon settled in. Her achievements included dealing with flood and storm damage to infrastructure on some of our key tenancies by surveying and arranging the maintenance and repair; undertaking condition assessments on farm tenancies and producing a report on the requirements for the tenants to deliver; and writing a contract for rural works and managing it to a successful conclusion.
“Alex’s biggest achievement was supporting the senior surveyors with the letting of a 2000-acre farm on the Catterick Training Area. She wrote the particulars, undertook several viewings and assessed the submissions in addition to undertaking the advertising and marketing and sending out tender request documentation.
“She was a key part of the team and integrated well with the Military customer and delivery partner.”
Alex has now returned to Harper for the completion of her degree while also in the process of building her own house. She hopes to remain part of the completion of the project and is open minded to any job role that comes her way in the northern region.