Volunteering was crucial to honing skills allowing an Edge Hill University graduate to pursue his dream career in conservation.
Arran Heap, 23, from Blackpool, spent hundreds of hours volunteering at Gorse Hill Nature Reserve in Aughton while studying at Edge Hill and credits his time there with providing the additional experience he needed to gain a foothold in the industry.
Currently working as a Conservation Project Officer for Groundwork Cheshire, Lancashire and Merseyside (CLM), Arran is now running the first community-led tree planting programme in his home town.
The first step in his volunteering journey came after meeting Gorse Hill’s reserve manager at an Edge Hill volunteers fair while studying for his BSc (Hons) Ecology and Conservation degree.
Arran said: “I always had an interest in getting as much work experience as possible because I knew from the start that I would need real world experience for my career. Gorse Hill is really close to campus so it was absolutely perfect for me.
“Initially I helped out on their volunteer days. A big part of my role now is community engagement so I learned a lot of useful tips.
“As I gained more experience I was able to develop my skills and started doing a lot of survey work, which is fundamental to the work I do now.
“Having experience is essential for anyone wanting to work in conservation and volunteering has given me so much.
“I genuinely loved my time at Gorse Hill and I still go back when I can because I have made friends for life.
“Now I’m giving back to my home town by running Blackpool’s first community-led tree planting programme. In the last year we have planted 10,000 trees in Blackpool and the foundation of my skills were developed at Gorse Hill.”
Arran also works on the North Blackpool Pond Trail and the Love My River project, managing volunteers and running various activities across the two schemes
Edge Hill actively encourages students to volunteer, recognising it can boost employment options and provide a great opportunity to give something back to the community, make friends and find out more about the local area.
Through Edge Hill’s extensive third sector network, more than 200 organisations have benefitted from students interested in volunteering. The Careers Vacancy Portal lists dozens of volunteering opportunities and the Extra Edge employability programme rewards students for engagement in voluntary or part-time work.
The Student Opportunity Fund operated by the University can even help students with costs for some volunteering activities. Volunteers’ Week takes place 1-7 June every year. It’s a chance to recognise the fantastic contribution volunteers make to our communities and to say thank you.
To discover more about courses at Edge Hill, please visit ehu.ac.uk/study.