Employing around 10,600 people across England, the Environment Agency (EA) takes on graduates and apprentices in a variety of roles, including flood and coastal engineering and geomatics
Identified as one of the nation's major threats, intense bouts of flooding across England and the rest of the UK are set to become even more frequent over coming years, the Environment Agency has warned.
The executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), launched a Flood Action Campaign in February 2018 to encourage people to be prepared for flooding and to sign up for free warnings.
Since flooding has become such a prominent national issue, long-term measures have been put in place to ensure the country's flood defences remain strong. This has opened up a range of Environment Agency jobs for apprentices and graduates considering flood risk management (FRM) careers.
'With an additional £2.3billion being invested by the government in more than 1,500 flood defence schemes by 2021, this is an exciting time to start a career in managing flood risk,' says Steve Biddle, deputy director for flood and coastal risk management (FCRM) efficiency and portfolio at the EA.
Why choose flood risk management?
For those looking to enter the UK's environmental sector, there's no escaping the fact that floods have the potential to damage property and businesses, devastate lives, and topple infrastructure networks which serve to keep societies and local economies functioning.
'Flood risk management is one of the most significant engineering and societal challenges in the UK and worldwide,' says Chris Kilsby, professor of hydrology and climate change at Newcastle University.
The issue is only set to heighten as climate change takes effect and, despite our technological advances, society seems ever more vulnerable to the impacts of flooding.
Chris adds, 'Flooding is not just a 'water problem' - it is also a 'people problem' and requires a holistic approach, using science and engineering to address the human and socio-economic issues.'
Skilled professionals are therefore needed in all areas of FRM, with flood risk jobs encompassing everything from scientists, hydrologists and water engineers to environment officers and project managers.
Careers with the Environment Agency
No matter what stage you are currently at - be it college, university, or the workplace - if you've the right skillset and application, there are various routes you can take into FRM when working for the Environment Agency, as careers cover many disciplines.
By beginning your career as a flood professional, you'll get to play a key role in working on flood defences that can 'protect people and properties, enhance the environment and improve local communities'.
In terms of combined work and study programmes for those starting out in the environmental sector, the EA offers finance, facilities management and assistant scientist apprenticeships.
To get onto the EA's structured three to four-year Engineering Graduate Programme, you'll need a Masters in civil engineering or mechanical engineering. Graduate engineers will get to develop relevant skills and capabilities in many areas, including project management, asset management, planning, design and site supervision. Follow this path and the training programme can lead to chartered engineer status.
Students in the penultimate year of a relevant remote sensing and/or geographical information systems (GIS) undergraduate degree can apply for a year-long work placement at the EA's Bath office. This paid opportunity is ideal for those set on working in geomatics or the wider environmental sector.
The EA are also looking out for volunteer assistant lock keepers on the River Thames.
Study towards environmental qualifications
With most of the roles requiring specialists, to put yourself in the best position to land one of these Environment Agency graduate jobs you'll need the right qualifications. Fortunately, there are structured pathways to follow that combine work with study.
If you're interested in a work-based learning programme to become a flood engineer, the EA, in partnership with Brunel University London, delivers a two-year flood and coastal engineering foundation degree. Tuition fees are covered by the EA, with the qualification making you eligible to study for the BSc in the subject either full time (one year) or part time (two years).
At postgraduate level, the EA's new Flood and Coastal Engineering MSc, again from Brunel University London, is designed to enhance your experience in flood management initiatives that provide communities with protection from flooding. It's for those who've studied a relevant subject - including engineering, environmental science, geology, geography or mathematics - and are aiming to achieve chartered engineer status.
The focused Flood Risk Management MSc at Newcastle University also enables students to train as FRM specialists, with the programme informed by scientific and mathematical understanding of the processes of rainfall, rivers, coasts and catchments.
Chris explains how the Masters addresses practical issues, including planning, design, flood forecasting and warning and options for defence and risk management. The professional training encompasses hydrology, hydraulics, mathematics and computer modelling as well as project management, socio-economics and communication to the public.
As well as taking up positions with the EA, graduates also go on to work in the UK and internationally for engineering consultancies, local and regional government, and environmental companies, with some choosing to embark on further academic study.
The value of professional accreditation
As you develop your career, guidance and training is available from industry organisations such as the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM).
For instance ICE, which has over 92,000 global members, is an organisation dedicated to supporting civil engineers and technicians through the award of professional qualifications, industry training, knowledge-sharing and networking.
ICE has a strong voice when it comes to influencing government investment in infrastructure. It's understood that while conventional flood defences help guard against inundation, communities cannot rely solely on them. Society therefore needs to develop new and innovative ways of mitigating the effects of flooding.
A spokesperson for ICE describes how 'governments are looking to the civil engineers of today and tomorrow to design and create these innovative solutions - ultimately helping to protect our towns, cities and villages'.
Although this type of career - sitting right at the heart of FRM and resilience - is satisfying, it still requires expertise, experience and carries significant responsibility. So becoming a chartered civil engineer with ICE is something to consider for your continuing professional development (CPD).
The ICE spokesperson adds, 'Achieving a professional qualification with ICE - becoming chartered - ratifies a civil engineer's professionalism, knowledge, skill and experience. It's an internationally recognised standard confirming to employers and clients that the engineer is technically and professionally competent and can make the right decisions.'
To find out more about this profession, get some tips on becoming a civil engineer.