By Ellie Dixon, Commercial Team

I’ve worked at Co-op since I was 17 and kept a foot in the door whilst at uni studying Environment and Business. I knew Co-op set ambitious ethical goals for themselves and the industries they work in. So after two years of study, when the role of Under Graduate Environmental Co-ordinator* cropped-up at head office, I seized the opportunity to get even closer to the business I cherish and respect. It’s been a rollercoaster year, starting with the massive wakeup call of working office hours instead of student hours!

My personal growth

Working in the Farming and Fisheries team I’ve travelled the length and breadth of the UK, visiting sites, meeting suppliers and attending industry events; allowing me to develop both personally and professionally. With only a few weeks left on the placement I’m incredibly sad to be leaving, but also extremely grateful for what’s been an invaluable and unforgettable learning experience.

A two week adventure

Familiar with Co-op’s Future of Food commitments, I was keen to learn more about how I could help the business achieve its goals across one of our priority ingredients: salmon. With over 5.2 million packs of salmon fillets sold each year in our shops, I was excited to learn more about our Salmon Farming Group and supply base.

I travelled to the Shetland Islands to meet our Irresistible Salmon supplier (Grieg Seafood), and worked alongside a team of devoted farmers to learn the basics of what it takes to be in the salmon industry. I arranged for local store colleagues to visit Grieg’s processing plant to learn about salmon farming and the products they sell in their shops. I also found myself at one of their hatchery sites where I spent two days tending to the salmon at their earliest stages of life. This was a truly fascinating experience.

My highlight from the trip was completing a basic sea survival course, which really pushed me outside my comfort zone. I was required to pass assignments in a swimming pool to prepare me for everything and anything the open seas may throw at me – including a helicopter crash landing!

Is an under graduate placement for you?

A placement year has been the best decision I’ve made for me and my career. It’s given me more opportunities than I could’ve ever imagined. I’ve enhanced my skills, put theory I’ve learnt at uni into practice, gained industry connections and developed a new found confidence – all whilst having lots of fun. I feel privileged to have spent a year working for such an inclusive business where my opinions are heard and valued. If you’re a student pondering over a possible placement year, my advice is do it, you won’t regret it!

For more information about careers at Co-op, visit our careers website.

* The role is part funded by Co-op and our seafood suppliers: Farne Salmon and Trout, and Lyons Seafoods.

Pictured: Adam Green – Lyons Seafood (left), Ellie Dixon – Commercial Team (right)