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Students earn stripes with zookeeping course

Written by on 28/07/2022

Students from Lancaster have been learning the ropes of a career in wildlife conservation with Blackpool Zoo.

Pupils from Our Lady’s Catholic College have been taking part in a series of careers sessions at the zoo, learning what a job in conservation entails, as well as the pathway to studying for a degree in zoology.

Around 70 students mucked in at the zoo, helping to clean out and feed the elephants and giraffes, as well as feeding the penguins and training the sealions. In addition, they also learned about the work the zoo is doing to support conservation efforts for animals.

Following the two-day work experience, the students also learned about the routes to zoology careers by attending a Lancaster University webinar into Ecology and Conservation degree courses, conducting research experiments with Myerscough College and by visiting the University of Central Lancashire to hear from academics at their new Veterinary School.

The sessions, funded by Future U, aim to support school pupils to explore careers that they previously thought were out of reach or had not considered. After winning a gold award for education by the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) in 2020 for its work to help students explore zoology careers, this career project was expanded to include college students as well as high school pupils.

Jessica Richmond, Senior Outreach Officer at Future U, said: “Future Zoo offered learners an exclusive behind-the-scenes insight into careers, as well as experience towards gaining entry to further education and higher education courses.

“I was blown away by the dedication of learners on the programme and the work they produced which was judged by colleagues at the Zoo. We are grateful to our partners for their contribution to the programme which collectively offered a well-rounded programme for all Future Zoo participants.

“Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and we look forward to staying in touch with learners to see how they progress in the future.”

Rebecca Reynolds, head of education at Blackpool Zoo, added: “It has been a great pleasure working alongside Future U on the Future Zoo programme and an incredible privilege sharing our zoo world with the students.

“Over a two-day period we have witnessed students become enthused, inspired and ignited by the possibility of working with and caring for animals. Learning through experience and having the opportunity to be close to a giraffe, elephant and other exotic species sparked an interest in the students that changed their perception of the choices available to them.

“Our evaluation has proved that this programme has an enormous impact on their sense of wellbeing and their future aspirations alongside providing them with memories which will last a lifetime.”

Pupils at Our Lady’s Catholic College in Lancaster were amongst the students taking part in the sessions.

Kerry Halkic, Teacher at Our Lady’s Catholic College, added: “The Future U Zoo experience at Blackpool Zoo has been phenomenal for our students from Lancaster. They come from backgrounds where they may not necessarily get this before and having hands-on experience of watching elephants being cleaned and trained, to feeding parrots to stroking a sea lion is absolutely one in a million for them.

“They’ll never forget this, and it has given some of the pupils the boost and confidence needed and pointing them in the right direction for where they might like to go as a potential career working with animals.”

Future U is part of the national Uni Connect Programme, funded by the Office for Students, and continues to support school pupils across Lancashire to encourage more young people to think about higher education and future careers.

It involves institutions and organisations across the county including the University of Central Lancashire, Lancaster University, Edge Hill University and the University of Cumbria.

Lancashire’s Future U works with a network of schools, in addition to colleges, higher education providers and local agencies to create tailored activities to meet the needs of students for now and the future.

Future U’s list of partners includes: Blackburn College, Blackpool Sixth Form College, Blackpool and the Fylde College, Burnley College, Cardinal Newman College, Edge Hill University, Inspira, Kendal College, Lancaster University, Myerscough College, Nelson and Colne College, Preston’s College, STEMFirst, Runshaw College, The Lancashire Colleges, University of Central Lancashire, University of Cumbria and West Lancashire College.