Sian Hibbert, Environmental Health

Sian - Intern 2019"As a third year student studying Geography and Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia, working as an intern within the Environment and Energy Team couldn’t have been more suited to me.

Over the 12 weeks I was lucky enough to work alongside different members of my team that each had their own speciality regarding energy and environmental matters. One of my main projects undertaken during the internship contributed to improving air quality. Following a Defra fund to improve rural air quality in West Suffolk, research into public understanding and potential future actions was required. As part of this, I spent time working alongside members of the policy team to devise a questionnaire that could be used for this. Together with the questionnaire, I also designed a briefing note that brought together team ideas for a future air quality conference that will engage the key stakeholders involved in rural air quality management.

Alongside this research, I was lucky enough to regularly observe real-time air quality measurements of NO2 and particulate matter using the team’s new air pollution sensor, which was very interesting. The air pollution topic also meant that I was able to attend an air quality meeting with resident association representatives and a few local councillors, which really helped me to understand local viewpoints.

Another area I was engaged in involved solar energy. The energy team are responsible for a considerable number of sites that accommodate solar panels, meaning that there is a lot of data to keep track of, including consumption and export values. Throughout my internship, I was responsible for logging weekly meter reads and ensuring that each solar site did not encounter any errors. When an error did occur, I was able to go to the site with a member of my team to identify the problem. My solar engagement also included exploration into potential new solar farm sites and even a visit to West Suffolk’s Toggam Solar Farm, which is one of the largest local authority owned solar farms in the UK!

Aside from air quality and solar energy, I was involved with a number of smaller projects including designing a poster for a new and important scheme called ACCESS. This EU funded project aims to build on the successful work of reducing energy consumption with West Suffolk businesses, by piloting smart energy solutions to develop a local smart grid. With help from the planning team, I also set up a trial that involved the recycling of crisp packets within the West Suffolk House office. For this trial, a local primary school sent crisp packets collected in the office to TerraCycle (an innovative recycling company), to redeem against TerraCycle points that were exchanged as a payment directly to the school. Additionally, I attended a climate change workshop run for the senior managers of the council, which involved facilitated discussions about feasible actions to be taken within West Suffolk. This was particularly relevant to my dissertation preparation therefore I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Along with the projects undertaken in my department, the 2019 interns were tasked with organising/running events and designing a leaflet as part of the West Suffolk skills development programme, which aimed to encourage residents to improve their existing skills and learn new skills to reduce rural isolation and encourage economic growth. With lots of planning and organisation involved, we ran two Skills Share Fairs’ which collectively brought together over 30 local businesses, charities and community groups to showcase the opportunities available to reduce the skills gap in West Suffolk. To promote our events and generally promote the opportunities communities have we handed out 1,000 flyers whilst attending local markets and travelling to more rural communities with a mobile library. Our events were successful and we received very positive feedback from both stallholders and the public.

Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience as an intern at West Suffolk Council. I am grateful for all of the opportunities and support people have given during my time here, especially my team. The skills, experience and knowledge I have gained will definitely help me in my future endeavours."