As schools and colleges get their new terms underway, this article reflects on this summer when Exmoor National Park hosted a number of work experience students from schools and colleges in the local region in August. Judging by the feedback received from both students and employees at the National Park, everyone found it a really useful and enjoyable learning experience. The students covered a whole range of activities from checking disused mine sites through learning how to sterilise crayfish to teaching other children about rivers with a working model in a town centre!
The National Park has formed strong links with many of the local schools and colleges over the years, so we were delighted to offer these work experience placements to Year 10 students from Kingsmead Secondary School (Wiveliscombe), Park Community School (Barnstaple), Pilton Community School (Barnstaple), South Molton Community College, Uffculme School, Wadham School (Crewkerne), West Buckland School (Barnstaple) and (from a bit further afield), Cirencester College.
Organised by Ellie Woodcock (ENPA’s Assistant Personnel & Corporate Support Officer), the students were given a full timetable of activities for the days they spent with us. Ellie ensured they got plenty of insight into the everyday work of the National Park, from understanding what the different teams do to experiencing meeting the public at our National Park Centres.
At the start, all the students were asked what they would like to achieve during their time with us. Their objectives included the more general expectations of understanding what the ENPA does and the roles of National Parks, as well as the more personal, such as being more confident with new people and how to teach others what they’ve learned. Fortunately all their objectives were met as the wide range of activities encompassed everything we do at ENPA, including:
- an archaeological dig & a day completing the annual audit of disused mines
- woodland management such as identifying and marking trees to be felled
- practical learning on managing invasive species such as Himalyan Balsam & American Signal Crayfish
- understanding biodiversity on Exmoor by participating in the Porlock Bioblitz event; doing surveys on wild flowers and river flies, and teaching children about rivers with a practical model for Big Green Day
- helping to educate the public by attending the Minehead Tourism conference and working at the Lynmouth Pavilion National Park Centre.
We were delighted to meet and get to know all the students who participated – an amazing group of young people who we’re sure will go on to succeed at everything they do. Below are some of their comments they fed back to us about their experiences here during the summer.
It was certainly a very positive experience for everyone – one which we all agree would be great to repeat. Ellie summed it up for all of us who helped and took part here at Exmoor: “As well as enjoying having the students with us, it also benefits our staff to share their work experiences and the work that they do at Exmoor National Park Authority. It is very satisfying to see the students get so much from their time with us, seeing them grow in confidence and take part in the work of the Authority. We are always happy to discuss our job roles with students so they can gain an understanding of what’s involved if they want to follow a career within Conservation or any other role within a National Park.”
So if you are a school or college thinking about a more varied type of work experience placement for next summer, please get in contact with us to discuss how we can help.
What our work experience students thought of their placements at Exmoor National Park:
“I was quite shocked on my first day as I came over the bridge at Dulverton and saw this massive building – I didn’t think it was going to be this big as I was expecting a kind of log cabin with a couple of rangers in it!”
“It’s been really great – we’ve been in a variety of different work places – so it doesn’t get boring – it’s like a big family and everyone is really friendly – it’s a really nice work environment.”
“I’ll be pretty smug [in telling my friends about this] as they’ve been stuck in an office and I’ve been in woodlands!”
“On this work experience, I‘ve experienced a lot of different departments – in a lot of other placements, it’s the same thing every day but being at Exmoor, we have been out with many teams, like the conservation team, the volunteer outreach team, the education & interpretation team – all sorts – it doesn’t get boring which is absolutely brilliant.”
“We found some flint that hadn’t been touched by man for 4000 years – that was amazing!”
“I had a fantastic week and gained an insight and understanding of how the ENPA works. I would really like to return in the future to gain more knowledge about the park and gain some practical experience working with the rangers. Thank you very much to everyone who has worked with me over the week – it has been a fantastic experience and I have learnt a lot.”
“Whenever I go on Exmoor, I didn’t really think about what I see – there’s a lot that I didn’t take in – but now I think I’ll notice a lot more – I’ll be a lot more aware of the sites and the sort of species of the flowers and butterfly – the features that you would normally just bypass.”
“I think the work experience I did this week was enjoyable, insightful and useful. I think this week showed there is more than it seems in Exmoor National Park and I am very grateful that I got to see it.”
“The fact that it was timetabled was very good as it meant I could prepare and the variety of jobs has been great. If I were to do it again, I would definitely do it again as there has been a huge effort to accommodate us and create an enjoyable experience. Thank you.”
“I found my work experience placement very helpful and I am glad that I did two weeks with the ENPA. I felt so comfortable in this working environment because everyone is so kind and everyone wants to help each other. I would highly recommend this placement to anyone looking for a land-based job.”
“It was an amazing experience. I really enjoyed it. I learnt so much and had so many great experiences. I feel as if I know now more what field I may want to work in, before I was unsure. The only thing to improve this was to give me more time at Exmoor National Park!”
“It’s helped improve my confidence in new situations that I wouldn’t have been able to cope with before. And it’s helped me confirm what I would like to do in the future.”