President's Commission

05 July 2021, Julie Barratt, CIEH President

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As the first custodian of the President’s Commission, I want to use it as an opportunity to encourage as many members as possible to engage with CIEH by volunteering their skills, knowledge and experience to support fellow members and the organisation.

Dr Huw Brunt, Chief Environmental Public Health Officer for Wales once remarked that 'none of us knows as much as all of us’, and I firmly believe that to be the case. As professionals, we have a wealth of knowledge and experience, some of which relates to the day job, some of which forms our soft skill set, and some of which is personal experience and knowledge of how we did what we did.

In a similar vein, I distinctly remember once talking to someone I hold in very high regard, who has achieved a huge amount and reached what I consider to be the pinnacle of his profession, and who casually pointed out someone else and told me how much he admired him and aspired to achieve as much as he had. He planned to chat to his 'hero' and ask him for some advice.

That the individual I held in such regard should have someone he regarded in the same way came as a surprise to me but demonstrates that everyone probably looks to someone else and admires what they have achieved, and more importantly, should be open enough to ask that person for help to achieve the same, or possibly more.

Someone will always know or have achieved what others want to know or to achieve, and I am keen to engage members to share their experience and knowledge with others and to make their knowledge and expertise available to help CIEH formulate policy, generate good practice and advocate for environmental and public health.

CIEH members have a long history of volunteering in a variety of roles, and the results and feedback from the recent membership survey show that the enthusiasm to volunteer remains as keen as it ever was. There is a mix of reasons for wanting to volunteer, for some it is about giving something back to the profession, some have a skill mix that is unique and want to share it, some are keen to be involved in the development of new professionals and others want an opportunity to use their knowledge and experience in ways that are not open to them as part of their day job.

Irrespective of motive, the altruistic desire to help in some way is core to most of our members on a professional and personal level. Perhaps it is subliminally part of being an Environmental Health Practitioner (EHP)?

I therefore propose to commence my stewardship of the President's Commission by seeking to reengage members in a number of volunteer roles. Some roles are new, some are not, but to be very clear, all are valued and appreciated.

We are establishing a mentor network for members to share their experiences with others who want to achieve what they have. There will be three types of mentors: those who mentor students, those who mentor EHPs who want to progress for middle management to higher levels, and those who mentor individuals who propose to become self-employed in an environmental health-related capacity.

In all of those fields, there are plenty who have gone before and learned lessons. We hope that they will be willing to share their experiences, good or bad to the benefit of those they mentor. If you fit any of the descriptions for potential mentors, please consider volunteering. If you have recently qualified, who knows more than you about the process? If you progressed up the management ladder to a high level, only you know how you did it, so please share that knowledge and experience. If you left employment to cut your own swathe, you will know what difficulties you encountered and what you have learned, so again please engage with others who are considering starting out along the same path. Between us all, we know a lot and sharing what we know multiplies its value exponentially.

Just as we are keen to support members within the profession moving on or moving up, we want to encourage others to join the profession. We know that environmental health ticks many boxes for students, but all too often they have neither heard of it nor consider it as a career. We also know that hearing about the job from a practising professional often prompts them to consider it and, having done so, go on to pursue it.

We also want to make it easier for those of you who want to sell the profession to do so, and to that end are making a series of resources that you might find useful at careers talks, school assemblies or university open days available in one place so that you can easily access them. There will be a wide variety of resources, including videos, career case studies, posters and other materials which can be used, and underpinned and enhanced by your own personal experiences, anecdotes and enthusiasm.

I myself have been a volunteer and, in my previous role as CIEH Director Wales, I worked closely with volunteers. I know and appreciate just what volunteers bring to CIEH and how much we benefit from their contributions. The results of the member survey suggest that members want to engage with CIEH. The ambition of my President's Commission is to reengage and rebuild the links to volunteer, which should be to the benefit of all of our members and to CIEH.

I hope and believe that I am pushing on an open door. If you want to give something back, bring something to the party or just get involved, please volunteer. Express your interest now and we will be in touch with you shortly.

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