Katie’s placement experience
Final year Geography BA(Hons) student Katie Osborne reflects on her placement year experience as a Project Support Officer at the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM).
I learnt that often the best thing you can do is ask questions, whether it’s on the wide industry issues or a set task.
Before I embarked on my placement with the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), my perception of the mining industry was that it was unappealing and a bit dirty; a view shared by many of my friends. However, after spending time at the ICMM, I soon realised that viewpoint did not offer a full picture of the complexities, both positive and negative, of how mining companies navigate their impacts.
I was unaware to the extent of the vast social, economic and environmental effects the industry has across the globe, but also the role that mining plays in our everyday lives, its contribution to sustainable development and our futures. What I also didn’t realise was the sheer volume of technical insight and knowledge of the industry that I was about to have access to during the placement, alongside my own personal development, supported by the brilliant team at ICMM.
I’ve had the opportunity to work on some of the latest advances and developments in the industry through ICMM, allowing me to gain valuable insight into pressing social and environmental matters facing the sector. This has ranged from socio-economic measurements, security and human rights, community resilience, gender and mining, to tailings (mine-waste), water, and mine closure. I have also learned the vital importance of assurance, compliance and reporting to measure a company’s sustainability performance and to help drive improvements.
Not only has a placement allowed for issue-based learning, but it has also provided me with the skills to take forward into my career. In terms of personal development, confidence was a huge barrier for me when I started my placement and one which almost hindered my decision to apply for a placement initially. Having the confidence to speak up has definitely been a journey throughout the last year, but one that I found I was supported on and reassured by the team at ICMM. This enabled me to continuously improve my communication skills over the year. I learnt that often the best thing you can do is ask questions, whether it’s on the wider industry issues or a set task – not only is there ‘no such thing as a silly question’ but questions actually, more often than not, show evidence of analytical thinking and are welcomed by a positive and collaborative team.
Aside from confidence, a year in industry has also taught me valuable skills in project management, time/task management, research and analysis, and data handling. Both stakeholder engagement and high-level organisational processes were also a big part of my learning during my placement, and something which I was able to see continuously throughout the year.
I was first made aware of these reoccurring processes during one of my introductory exchanges with a colleague discussing ICMM partnerships with a department of the United Nations. In response to my awed reaction they explained that the people behind these roles which are helping to shape and better the industry are really just people, and the dedication and commitment from them is what is driving change. This relationship between management and teamwork is something I feel I had the privilege of seeing and learning about during my time at ICMM.
For anyone thinking about whether or not a placement is right for them, my best advice would be to trust your instinct on the culture and values of an organisation – something that can be often be apparent and questioned at the interview stage. But also remember, that any experience is still an experience that you can learn from!