Posted 23 January
"Given the planned shift away from direct farm subsidies towards those supporting ‘public goods’, the course’s strong environmental component should stand me in good stead."
Former Harper Adams University student Megan Lewis has landed her “dream job” – and reckons having been to Harper was critical to securing the role.
Megan, who was one of 10 students enrolled on the BSc (Hons) Wildlife Conservation with Natural Resource Management course in its inaugural year, graduated with a first-class degree in 2017, before gaining a distinction in an Entomology MSc.
She began working this month at CLM, a leading firm of farm business consultants and land agents operating across southern England – and is convinced her studies provided the perfect stepping-stone to the role blending wildlife, environmental and agricultural aspects.
As a Farm and Environment Assistant, her first week alone saw her involved in such varied tasks as ecological assessments, rhododendron-clearance and Countryside Stewardship applications.
“At my job interview, I was asked a lot about my course,” says the 23-year-old. “Given the planned shift away from direct farm subsidies towards those supporting ‘public goods’, the course’s strong environmental component should stand me in good stead.
“The placement year is also so useful in terms of improving your employability – it means you graduate with a track-record in the world of work.”
Originally from Great Bolas in Shropshire, Megan spent her placement as a volunteer ranger for the National Trust in Pembrokeshire – busy with everything from monitoring habitats and fixing fences to assisting with tree-felling and engaging with visitors.
The BSc (Hons) course, which recently had new modules added and is now called Wildlife Conservation and Environmental Management, also includes residential field trips in the first and final years. Megan says her visits to Devon and Anglesey were “unforgettable experiences and a brilliant way to contextualise what we had learnt”.
Megan acquired her love of all things rural at a young age, working in her spare time as a teenager on an arable, pig and poultry farm near the family home. “I started work there the day after I finished my GCSEs and was immediately captivated by it,” she recalls.
“I later went to an open day at Harper and was struck by the atmosphere. It was so friendly and the rural campus made me feel immediately comfortable.”
According Kevin Jay, a Director of CLM, the countryside is in a period of “unprecedented change” which means professional roles – and the attributes young people need to do them well – are changing.
“Jobs such as ours are incredibly varied and graduates might be involved in anything from dealing with planning permission issues and farm consultancy to business restructuring and ecology, so we look for people, such as Megan, who can think on their feet and multi-task," says Kevin.
“The rural sector needs to recruit the brightest and best graduates – those who can learn quickly, are enthusiastic and have the interpersonal, commercial and IT skills to help farmers and landowners navigate successfully through these uncertain times.”
A keen photographer and runner (she’s completed the Great North Run twice), Megan now lives in Forest Row in East Sussex.
“I'm looking forward to getting to know this part of the world better,” she says. “It's certainly hillier than Shropshire, which I’m sure I’ll be very aware of when I’m out running!
“I wouldn't have got this job without having been to Harper, so I'll always be glad I made that decision,” she concludes. “I miss Harper, but I'm very excited about this new phase in my life.”