Samantha poses for the camera in front of a bush

Samantha Barnett : Apprentice case study


When I left school, I worked in my local council’s environmental health department admin team over the summer before completing my A-Levels. I got a job as an estate agent but sadly the office I worked for closed during the financial crisis of 2008. I found myself suddenly out of work until I spotted an advert for maternity cover in the support team in Environmental Health at Mid Devon District Council.

I loved working as a Business Support Officer on the front line of the service taking calls, helping the public with such a wide range of interesting enquiries, from swarming bees to smoky bonfires; pub kitchen complaints to mouldy houses; and working to support the officers across all the environmental health disciplines in their roles. As I had a background in housing, I concentrated on support for the EH officers working in Private Sector Housing. It was really satisfying to be part of the team that made a difference for people that live in poor housing or needed an adaptation so they can safely access their homes. The knowledge and enthusiasm of the EH officers was infectious.

After having my children, I completed the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) training, became a member of the CIEH and started becoming more involved in casework. My hard work paid off and I was promoted to Private Sector Housing (PSH) officer. However, I still wasn’t a qualified Environmental Health Practitioner and was eager to learn more. Then I spotted an advert in Environmental Health News (EHN) for the apprenticeship degree and found out my employer was happy to support me on the course.

I am now in my second year of study and love how much more confident I am at doing my job already. I work four days a week and attend lectures once a week at the University Centre in Weston, or sometimes I join the lectures online. I keep in touch with my fellow students during the week and we’re always on a WhatsApp chat to run ideas past each other. The flexibility is great having the option to study from home, and my manager is so supportive.

It has been a challenge learning to be a student again; getting to grips with homework and fitting in time to research and write assignments, but I am fortunate enough to have a supportive husband and family around me. I have also found that my two children have benefitted from seeing mum study; we sit down together to do our homework!