Former soldier Jon Brooks graduated with first-class Honours from the BSc (Hons) Geography degree in 2015. During his final exams, he was offered the position of Compliance Officer with the Local Planning Authority.
"I chose to study Geography for a number of reasons. Firstly (and arguably most importantly), it’s a subject that I enjoy very much and I take great interest in the changing landscapes around me. Secondly, the variety of skills developed through the course allows one to be able to confidently apply themselves in almost any field of industry. Thirdly, the degree offers the opportunity for travel.
I initially enrolled to USW with the intention of becoming a geography teacher at secondary school level. However, the course quickly opened lots of career pathways to pursue. I found that town planning and development management perfectly fitted my interests in both human and physical geography and this was the vocation for me.
In its simplest form, the geography degree is a three-year problem solving exercise. Reconstructing long-term climate change and unpacking complex rural/urban social dynamics involves lots of individual research to develop a sound knowledge base in order to create informed ideas. It continually questions the links between people and place and requires students to actively engage in the landscape around them. It is this exploration and fascinating discovery which I loved most about the degree.
The high point for me was the field trip to Newquay, Cornwall. It took place in December of year one, so we had only known each other for a few months and friendships were still being formed. The last night of the trip, the entire group made the most of Newquay’s festive nightlife and had an absolute blast. After that night, if felt as though I had been best friends with everyone for a lifetime, which for me really signalled the start of my Uni studies.
The project that stands out was the third year Urban Geography assignment where we were required to create an audio walk. The theme was ‘looking anew at a familiar urban location’. I chose Pontypridd as I’ve spent most of my life living in the area. I discovered more than I ever thought possible, not in the way of dry facts and figures, but of how the everyday townscape behaves, the dynamic interaction between people, buildings, streets and nature. It proved a most enjoyable experience - even if the sound of my voice on tape made me really cringe!
For the Work Based Learning module, I spent six weeks at Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council Town Planning Division as a GIS student placement. I experienced first-hand how Local Planning Authorities operate and assisted with the implementation of the Welsh Assembly Government’s Employability Land Survey. I provided GIS support to planning officers, producing spreadsheet and cartographic representations of data collected from on-site surveys of industrial estates, enterprise zones and innovation parks within the region.
The placement equipped me crucial demonstrable experience of working within a corporate environment and the opportunity to put into practise the skills developed throughout my studies. This not only bolstered my CV but developed my GIS skills to a level that produced industry grade products that were used within a national study; ultimately improving my work standards for final year GIS projects.
I can say with total confidence that I would not have been offered a job with the Local Planning Authority had I not gained this relevant, industry-based experience."