An interns tale - Sophie from South Devon Countryside
South Devon Countryside recently lost its first internship. This is a tale of success rather than failure though with Sophie our first ever internship moving to pastures new, from intern to permanent ranger for the National Trust in one giant leap. For anyone considering whether a National Trust internship is for them here is her tale….
I have always been interested in conservation work, and love the outdoors. However, after a four year geography degree I knew I still lacked the practical experience to fulfil my ambition of turning an interest into an occupation. Seeing the internship advertised, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to develop that experience required.
To reflect the evolution of the ranger role, my experience on an internship has been very different to that of a long term volunteer. Whilst some may consider this just another re-branding exercise, the countryside team thought carefully about the future of the ranger role and wanted to prepare their internship with these skills now.
Yes, I have still had practical experience working out on the coast path, and in all weathers, but these fundamental skills have been to support the rest of my role rather than the core of it. From the outset, the rangers recognised that it was going to be extremely difficult for me to succeed in my internship role unless I understood the fundamentals of practical countryside management and there honestly is no better place to learn than out in the field!!
However, I also had my own office days each week where I would peruse my own projects. From focusing on developing our relationships with surrounding communities to installing new permissive routes, these were diverse in themselves. Communication of our work has been an essential requirement of the role so we could really get our messages out there and heard. From writing for our countryside blog to website articles, press releases and even downloadable walks, I never considered writing a particular skill, but when you are communicating to such a broad range of people the ability to get your message out clearly and concisely is always a challenge. I never thought tone of voice varied so significantly!!
I had an unforgettable time in South Devon and learnt so much from my experience with the countryside team. I never quite thought I would walk into a permanent position, and Polesden Lacy will offer a huge challenge to apply all I have leant in the last 10months, but I am confident that the internship has equipped me with all the skills I need to succeed.
And just for balance, here is her mangers perspective…
Traditionally South Devon Countryside operated similarly to many other properties across the National Trust, recruiting full time volunteers to form the backbone of our practical operation. With the organisational shift in our own roles to rangers, we recognised there was an opportunity to pass a very different skill-set onto our volunteers and with a bit of foresight, equip them with the skills we saw becoming essential to the evolution of the ranger role. Subsequently the internship role focused on our communities and our engagement work in all its various forms, key objectives identified in our property business plan.
Sophie was given a lot of responsibility in her role and was supported throughout with clear objectives and regular progress meetings. We passed on much of our own skills and experience throughout the programme and whenever we could looked to the consultancy to deliver training essential to her role such as press and publicity. Recognising the internship role was a new one, the team were quick to identify external funding that would allow her to continue her personal development and give her the experience to peruse this as a profession. Sophie gave a huge amount to South Devon Countryside throughout her internship and deserves all her success. To Polesden Lacy she will be an enormous asset.
Re-produced by kind permission of the National Trust's South Devon Countryside.