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    The power of placement: the student perspective

    13 December 2023

    Dr Lucy Crockford is a Senior Lecturer in Soil and Water Management at Harper Adams University, where her role also means she works as a Placement Tutor and Lecturer.

    Earlier this year, she worked with The Environment Magazine on an article for the publication’s Youth Takeover issue.

    In it, she set out the importance of the industry placement year all Harper Adams University students undertake – setting out her views, the views of one of our industry partners, and the views of our students.

    Students take various forms of employment from working in placement-oriented roles such as assistant rangers, technicians, researchers through to covering roles filled previously by graduates.

    In this final part of  our series of blogs, we hear from three Environment, Sustainability and Wildlife students about how their placement year went and the difference it made.


    Lucy Batty

    Lucy Batty is a Public Health Scientist with Yorkshire Water whose placement was as a Catchment Technician at Wessex Water.

    She studied a BSc (Hons) Countryside and Environmental Management at Harper Adams University and graduated in 2019.

    During my placement year I helped to improve the water quality, especially focusing on nitrates, in boreholes across the Wessex Water region.

    This was done by working alongside farmers within the catchment area to install cover crops and increase nitrate related monitoring.

    I had many great experiences from my placement year but collecting and analysing soil and water samples was a particularly useful skill I developed.

    This really helped me during my final year at University when completing my Honours Research Project which investigated changes in land use on nitrate and phosphate river concentrations. Working on a cover crop trial with the local college was another highlight during my placement allowing me to develop skills in collaboration and negotiation.

    One important benefit of my placement year was that I met a lot of great people at Wessex Water and I am still in contact with some of my colleagues. I also had the chance to attend Cereals  - a large agricultural conference - and represent the WaterUK stand where I was able to meet representatives from other water companies across the UK. I have since continued working in the sector in roles for both Anglian and Yorkshire Water.

    A placement year absolutely flies by so it’s really important to seize every opportunity that comes your way.

    My main takeaway is that while I thoroughly enjoyed my placement year, I also learnt so much. It was great to go back to into final year at University with a fresh perspective and new skills set.

    The Company were so welcoming and this encouraged me to remain working in the water industry after I graduated.


    Ben Holloway


    BSc (Hons) Geography and Environmental Management graduate Ben’s placement was as an Ecology and Green Infrastructure Assistant with Telford and Wrekin Council.


    In September 2021 I began my work placement year with Telford and Wrekin Council.

    Over the 12 months to follow I developed in skills, confidence and became an integrated part of the Ecology and Green Infrastructure team.

    I undertook a wide array of work, from desk-based planning responses to protected species surveys. Within a short time, I was responsible for managing an ecological data search service offered by the team, responding to most planning applications and reviewing management plans for the 13 Local Nature Reserves declared at that time.

    Over the summer, I worked on several protected species surveys for internal and external clients.

    Based on skills and knowledge gained in the first years of my degree I was able to lead a project to develop the local authority strategy for Biodiversity Net Gain.

    This was a very beneficial experience, allowing me to ‘show off’ my skills and gain confidence in my abilities. Working with people and organisations outside of the authority also provided an opportunity to make contacts with people in both the ecological and planning communities.

    On reflection, there is not much I would want to change about my placement year!

    The breadth of work undertaken and level of responsibility I came to have went beyond my expectations.

    A placement student can certainly become an asset to any workplace, some of the up to date and relevant knowledge gained already at university certainly gave me a good grounding.

    Overall, placement has given me the experience and confidence to move forward in my career.

    As I look to begin a permanent position in the Ecology and Green Infrastructure team, I am grateful for the opportunity presented to me by Harper Adams and Telford and Wrekin Council.


    Jenna Churchill

    BSc (Hons) Wildlife Conservation and Environmental Management graduate Jenna Churchill was as a UK Native Species Conservation Placement Student with Bristol Zoological Society.

    Being a UK conservation placement student at Bristol Zoological Society, I worked with the native species team which is a division within the Conservation Science and Education department within the society.

    With conservation experience sometimes being hard to secure, having been successful in my application for this placement, I knew that the year in industry was going to be extremely valuable.

    Working with the team across all seasons, I developed many practical skills including habitat management, restoration projects and species surveys including bird, bat, badger, reptile, dormouse, water shrew, invertebrates, and botany.

    However, I took a particular interest in Great Crested Newt surveys and aquatic ecology and as a result the native species team encouraged and supported me in developing my HRP whilst on placement, and wrote my dissertation based on data I collected whilst on placement.

    The south west, white-clawed crayfish project was one of the main areas of focus for me on my placement, I worked almost daily with the protected species at the hatchery onsite at Bristol Zoo, and out in the field, where we would undertake invasive species management as well as reintroducing captive bred individuals which was very rewarding and one of the highlights of placement.

    One of the take away experiences I have of placement is meeting likeminded people within the industry and working with each member of the native species team - as everyone I met was so passionate, friendly, and inspiring and I learnt something from everyone.

    My placement year at Bristol Zoological society was an amazing experience and I got more than I expected from the year in industry.

    Though unpaid, I would take this opportunity again over any other placement as the Society and native species team provided me with so much support and helped me with my personal and professional development working towards a future career in the environmental sector.

    I am very grateful for the opportunity and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for conservation experience.


    Recently appointed as Course Manager for the Environment, Sustainability and Wildlife courses, Lucy is tasked with developing further placement opportunities as we launch our new courses:

    BSc (Hons) Environmental Management and Sustainability

    BSc (Hons) Wildlife Conservation and Ecology

    Please feel welcome to contact her at or Placement Manager, Paul Lewis, to discuss any potential opportunities.



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