The value of work placements: three months in local government

Inverness-Highland-CouncilLAST summer, with the end of my degree just a year away, I felt it was time to find some relevant work experience. Thus, I set out to look for a placement. I personally found that it can be difficult to consider what kind of employment you want to go into after your degree.

As a Geography student there were many avenues that I could explore, so I started to look at what options were available within the Highlands of Scotland where I live. One placement opportunity that I applied for was as a data analyst at a timber company, one which offered a wide variety of experience and knowledge. It also seemed especially related to my degree as I have a keen interest in resources and resource management. I was lucky enough to get an interview and started to prepare, but in all honesty when it came to it I was woefully unprepared. This was a private sector company that was looking for someone to be a fully fledged member of their team, and I just felt rather overwhelmed by it. Looking back, I doubt I did myself justice and I did not get the role.

This process wasn’t all doom and gloom however as it gave me the invaluable experience of what to expect from interviews, and I was later lucky enough to get another interview with the local council. This time around I was successful, after being contacted by the Transport Development Officer with the job description and asking if I wanted to come to an interview. This was a whole year after I had submitted my CV and statement to the council in case anything came up, which just goes to show how far a bit of patience can go. I’d also suggest that when searching for a job you don’t just look for advertised positions. I contacted the Highland Council directly and they added me to a database in which potential students could be looked at, and my CV seemed to fit what they might be looking for.

And so during the summer of 2013 I worked (and was paid) for the Highland Council Transport Department, within the Transport, Environment and Community Services (TECS). My role entailed a review of Community Transport (CT) within Highland, creating a set of questionnaires and interviews that targeted users, volunteers, scheme leaders and fundraisers and creating maps which showed the area in which CT is served. This culminated in me writing a report which was later taken to the TECS Committee as part of the CT Review, in order to help decide what future policy would be and where funding priorities would fall. In fact, they asked if I’d stay on as long as I possibly could, which just goes to show what other opportunities can arise from placements like this one.

The experiences I gained from the three months spent at the Highland Council were invaluable, as they gave me an insight into how a local authority works and a real world experience for the first time. The skills I learnt through this helped me to understand the various issues when considering policy and future development, whether it be for Community Transport or another aspect. The placement also helped me to think about what I want to do as a career, and working in government or consultancy seems to be a likely aspiration for me. It also encouraged me to consider staying on here at Aber to do a Masters, which would directly help me with my goals of working in policy.

Finding that experience that can open your eyes to what to do for the rest of your life may not be easy, but it is possible and definitely worth doing. Search for fields in which you’re interested and just get in contact. You never know, you may just find something that could help you choose your future career and give you the edge in pursuing it.