Five minutes with Bradley Parkes, company director
Bradley, 23, from Staffordshire, graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Rural Enterprise and Land Management (REALM). He lived in France for three years before university and is now Director of a community interest company he co-founded.
Why did you choose to study at Harper Adams?
Having attended the residential taster event (it used to be known as HEC) before making my choices, the university seemed ideal. It had a warm welcoming feeling and being outdoors orientated, suited me perfectly! It’s a great university for people who are interested in the outdoors and working in a rural environment. The experience really sets you up for life after university. Everyone knows each other which is good thing and it has plenty of clubs on offer.
What was the best thing about the course?
The single most valuable experience for me was placement at The Brown Rural Partnership. I learnt a lot over the year and gained some valuable experience. I also enjoyed getting out of campus on the field trips which were always interesting and of course meeting some great fiends.
Did the course make you more employable?
It built my confidence in general and importantly when dealing with clients. Placement in particular stands out now on my CV.
Tell us a little about any projects you were involved in.
My dissertation was on the sport of angling and whether it was a valuable business pursuit for a landowner in Staffordshire. Being involved in the sport myself helped and had plenty of willing people to interview. The project allowed me to interview others in the industry not only building up research but building professional relationships for life after graduation. The project reinforced other similar research in as much as it found that angling was economically, environmentally and socially of value to a landowner.
Where did you spend your work placement?
The Brown Rural Partnership in Macclesfield. I was an Assistant Surveyor helping with a number of roles. I spent most of my time with the firm’s largest client which installed and maintained pipelines. I undertook site visits, met with clients, prepared reports and helped negotiate compensation.
What was the best thing about placement?
For me it was working with some great people and being able to get out into ‘the field’ as it were. Traveling around the country and into Wales allowed me to meet lots of interesting people and broke up the days being in the office.
Do you think placement enhanced your career prospects?
Yes, as I am currently self-employed it has taught me a great deal in working with clients and customers. The knowledge gained from placement will hopefully also allow me to eventually provide land management services in the near future or work for a firm should I change career paths. Having 12 months professional experience is invaluable if I were to look for a job in the future.
You are now self employed?
Yes, I am registered self employed as a sole trader and currently undertake work in various capacities, including fishery management consultation, angling coaching and creating rural crafts.
Primarily however, I work as one of three directors for Chase Aqua Rural Enterprise or CARE for short. It is a community interest company based in Staffordshire providing a range of rural activities to the community.
CARE was established in 2011. I was a founding director and look after the angling side of the business.
Why did you set up independently?
I have always been a keen angler and interested in the outdoors. Unfortunately finding a paid job in the above is difficult, there are few about, and therefore I decided to try to create one for myself!
Has being a graduate helped?
Yes it gives me a level of creditability, even though my course was not focused on many aspects of my current role. Clients can see I am a degree student and are more likely to trust me with work.
How have your qualification/ experiences at Harper Adams aided your career?
Whilst on placement my employers recognised that I enjoyed angling and tried to point relevant work in my direction. I learnt about negotiating fishing leases and even on one occasion the valuation of a fish farm.
What are the highs and lows of running your own business?
I love being in a job I am passionate about and enjoy. It is fairly flexible, allowing me to pursue my personal competition fishing around the country, and I enjoy working with people. However the hours are very long, often up to 15 hours a day and due to the nature of the business it is very seasonal. Over the winter I can be the only person about for days on end. It would be nice if it could average out!
Describe a typical day.
Get up at 5.30am, flick laptop on to check for emails and update website if necessary. Open up the fishery at 7.00am and work on-site until 9pm when we close. Whilst at the pools I will deal with customers and provide coaching if any has been booked on the day. I liaise with a team of coaches I manage regarding forthcoming events and try to drum up business. This could be through contacting schools, groups or organisations. I often travel off site to provide consultancy services and/or coaching.
What advice can you offer to graduates wishing to set up a business?
Do something you enjoy, especially while you are young and have fewer commitments. If you enjoy what you are doing, getting paid is a bonus!
What’s your opinion of the teaching/support at Harper Adams?
The careers advisors are very helpful and the teaching staff do a great job.
What are your best memories of university?
The first year in halls is hard to beat! Living with your friends and the freedom is something I often miss now!