Matthew Blakemore, Year in Industry student at the University of Leeds

Matthew Blakemore

What does the company do?

The Canal and Rivers Trust are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of over 2000 miles of canal network across England and Wales. Day to day, the Trust organises volunteering groups on the network, deals with boat licensing, manages and maintains assets and generally ensures that the network is kept in a good, safe condition for the general public. The canals are not just for pleasure boaters and some commercial boats use the waterways too, as well as the many walkers, runners and cyclists who use the towpaths.  

What was your role within the company?

As part of the hydrographic survey team, we were responsible for surveying the entire network over an 8 year cycle to ensure the recorded depth of water is accurate. Using state of the art equipment and our small survey boat, we collected data along approximately 500 miles of the network during my placement year. Using bathymetric data we were then able to target specific areas that required dredging where the channel had silted up naturally over time. 

What did you enjoy the most and did you get involved in any interesting projects?

Getting out and about on the canals was the highlight of the job. I also really enjoyed being able to talk to the general public and experience new challenges daily. Although the hours could be long, and occasionally we worked in terrible weather, it was really rewarding to see the whole project through. Going from planning the site visit and collecting the data, to processing that data back in the office and generating depth charts ready to be published was a great achievement.

Why did you want to undertake a year in industry?

I wasn't too sure about taking a year out, and only applied to a few companies to keep my options open whilst I made up my mind. I received an interview invitation from the Canal and Rivers Trust, and decided I had nothing to lose by attending. The interview was a great opportunity to see if I would fit in, and I decided that whilst also academically beneficial, the year out would be interesting and enjoyable as well, which would keep me motivated. I also decided it would be good to have a break from university to reinforce life after graduation. I definitely think I returned for my final year with a much clearer understanding of what I’m doing, and the possible career paths available… and the money helps too!

What do you think you have got out of this experience so far?

The networking was a great benefit to my year out, as people in the Trust were able to offer help and support for my dissertation, meaning the experience was mutually beneficial for both me and the trust. More importantly however, the transferable skills I developed on my year out, and the fact I did the year in industry in general, will be a great addition to my CV - hopefully helping me to stand out and get set up my future career.

Do you have any tips and advice to current students thinking of undertaking a year in industry?

If you aren’t sure if you should do a year in industry, apply anyway, you can always say no later! 

Make sure that the year in industry will be relevant to you. If you find the work interesting, or at least think you will, it will be much more helpful in giving you an idea of what you want to do (or not) after university. 

If you have to do an interview, use it as our opportunity to make sure the job is right for you. They already know you’re good enough for the job through your CV and covering letter, it’s more about how they got on with you as a person, so be confident and don’t worry.