BLOG: Kickstarting an interest in the environment

Kickstart trainee Alex Bond reflects on their time as the Communications Trainee at Groundwork UK and how they were inspired to pursue a career in the environmental sector.

It’s always been important for me personally to work for an organisation which is aligned with my own values, and this has been one of the best things about working for Groundwork. During the six months I have spent in the UK office, I have been able to support many of the programmes we offer such as Green Doctors, Future Proof Parks and the Comic Relief Community Fund, and it’s great to feel that my work has had an overall positive impact. Groundwork seeks to support communities by taking a bottom-up approach, empowering everyday people to have control. This delivers change which is therefore more sustainable and better-suited to the genuine needs of community members. Groundwork also recognises climate change as a social justice issue, and understands the connections between inequality and poverty, the environment, mental and physical health and overall community wellbeing. The fact that Groundwork takes a holistic approach to these issues is something that I have found really exciting about working for this organisation, and it’s one of the main reasons why I decided to apply for this Kickstart opportunity.

After leaving university, I initially worked as a teaching assistant, hoping to gain some classroom experience while considering a PGCE. Ultimately, however, I decided that this wasn’t the career path I wanted to follow, and I became increasingly interested in working for non-profit organisations. Specifically, I was drawn to digital marketing-based roles, as well as roles where I could use my written communication skills. When the schools closed during lockdown I had some time to think about where I wanted to go next, and I gained some administrative experience working in college enrolment, took part in a digital campaign with Beatfreeks, and completed a CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) course. Once this course ended, I was then hoping to find my first entry-level role in the third sector. I had fairly limited experience, and was hoping to be able to find a role where I could gain the new skills and experience that I needed in order to progress.

The communications trainee role at Groundwork UK was the perfect opportunity for me at this early stage in my career. As this was a Kickstart placement, there was a wealth of support and training made available to me, and my role was hugely varied, allowing me to gain experience across the whole communications team.

As someone who had never worked in an office environment before, I was initially a little daunted, as there was a lot of new terminology and different ways of working to adjust to. However, I found it easy to find my feet. When I first started at Groundwork I was given time and support to settle into my new role, and every morning I would have a catch-up with Garry, my manager, who would give me a chance to ask questions and make sure had all everything I needed for the day. I also had the chance to chat with my colleagues from other teams within the Groundwork UK office, and to learn more about their work and what they do. This really helped me to get a feel for how the organisation runs as a whole. It wasn’t long before I no longer needed daily catch ups at all, and could work very independently, however I could still always ask if I needed extra support. The communications team have been very welcoming and approachable, and working at Groundwork has really helped my confidence to grow.

In my role at Groundwork I supported a range of national campaigns by writing social media copy; producing graphics, gifs and short videos on Canva; scheduling posts; taking part in a social media takeover and organising and reporting on content. I also coordinated photographers for Future Proof Parks events, and worked with external consultants to devise and deliver a series of social media and website training webinars, demonstrating my ability to work under pressure to meet deadlines when needed.

Additionally, I gained new administrative skills and experience; maintained the press contacts database; conducted research; helped with the design of Groundwork’s statutory financial report; proof-read and applied plain English to learning reports and blog posts for high-value corporate partners and used WordPress to edit pages on the Groundwork website.

A lot of the work I did within the communications team was centred around engaging with young people, and I was able to offer my own perspective as someone who falls within that demographic. I helped to shape the #ReclaimYourPark digital campaign, which encouraged young people to engage with their local parks and green spaces, and also advised on Groundwork’s Young People and Climate Change Survey. I also helped to edit webpages aimed at a youth audience and came up with calls to action and resources linked to COP26 and the publication of Groundwork’s Youth in a Changing Climate report. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to write two blog posts, sharing my own opinions on issues relating to climate change which I felt were relevant to me as a young person. The first blog was about the future of the UK’s public transport, and the second discussed the impact of eco-anxiety on young people in 2021, and was published by the Centre for Mental Health.

As part of the Kickstart programme, I also received carbon literacy and community development training, which was a great way to learn even more about these areas which are relevant to Groundwork. It was also a great opportunity to connect with Kickstart trainees from other Groundwork trusts and to learn more about the work that they do in their areas.

My time spent at Groundwork has deepened my knowledge and my interest in environmental issues. I now see environmental and social issues as intrinsically linked, and this has motivated me to want to work for other organisations which focus on climate change, as well as organisations which work to build up communities and support vulnerable people. I am now aiming to find a permanent full-time role within a non-profit organisation, ideally containing down a career path in communications. My Kickstart placement has helped me to gain the valuable experience I need to aim for exciting new opportunities, and I hope that this experience can be a jumping-off point for my future career.

Since finishing their placement, Alex has started a new role as an Education Support Administrator with the University of Birmingham.

Blog by: Alex Bond, Communications Trainee, Groundwork UK