NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Glasgow Caledonian University have joined together to nurture health professionals who will improve our natural and built environment as well as patient health.

Both have agreed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which formalises links between the health board’s Sustainability Team and the university’s School of Built Environment and Engineering Department, with student internships placed within the health board from the BSc (Hons) Environmental Management degree.

NHSGGC and GCU have longstanding relations across traditional areas such as nursing, midwifery and paramedic science, and now those links will expand to incorporate the engineering, science and environmental professions. 

Since 2017, the Sustainability Team have taken on one student intern in their third year, but this year the placement programme has expanded to include three third and fourth year student interns.

During their time with NHSGGC, interns gain valuable experience in areas such as environmental management systems, pollution prevention control, waste and energy management, and greenspace projects. Greenspace projects are a particular success story, with students being integral to accessing more than £300,000 of project funding.

Tom Steele, Director of Facilities and Estates at NHSGGC, said: “The partnership is a real game changer as we look towards welcoming COP26 to Glasgow and achieving the Scottish Government’s net-zero and climate change targets. Our student interns, and access to academic resources, are playing an active role in NHSGGC’s sustainability agenda, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“However, more broadly the partnership allows us to engage with students at the earliest opportunity to support our workforce across all construction, engineering and environmental management specialties improving our estates and facilities for patients, staff and the wider communities we serve.”

Rohinton Emmanuel, director of the BEAM Research Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University, commented: “The BEAM Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University is pleased to enter into a formal placement and learning experience agreement with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. While informal arrangements have existed between us for a few years, the current arrangement will formalise the relationship and more directly focus on the learning experience of students across a variety of built-environment programmes in the Department of Civil Engineering and Environmental Management. It will open up a meaningful and enriching learning experience to multi-disciplinary built environment students at a level and quality appropriate to their career development.”

The MoU opens up routes for student development and employment opportunities, not only within sustainability, but further linkage with the Built Environment School from courses such as Building Services Engineering, Construction Management, Building Surveying, Quantity Surveying and Electrical & Mechanical Engineering. Previous interns have gone on to have successful careers within industry in Glasgow and beyond.

Student case studies

One student who benefited from the links between health board and university was Lucy Starling. She said: “I spent 10 months overall working with NHSGGC as a student intern. I was involved in a vast range of projects, such as waste management, environmental management systems, pollution prevention and control, greenspace and even communications and awareness raising.

“I gained a wide range of skills and knowledge which has helped me further my career. Now, I am employed as a Graduate Environmental Consultant and I use a lot of the skills, knowledge and confidence gained at NHSGGC in my daily working life.”

Kirsten Allan (pictured), an intern who will be with NHSGGC until she finishes her degree next summer, is another who highly recommends the programme. She added: “A typical day for me can be quite varied. I’ve been involved in loads of projects, including communications, financial incentive planning, and even the always glamorous recycling of fatty oils!

“Throughout the last nine months, I’ve been particularly lucky to work alongside others in developing greenspace projects on our sites, ticking the “environment” pillar. Greenspace is a really exciting area to be working in, with many NHSGGC sites boasting enviable greenspace, amongst the largest healthcare estates in Europe. I have been involved with some really exciting greenspace projects – such as the Royal Alexandra Hospital Pond Project and the QEUH landscape improvements.”

Luke Hanlon, a previous intern, has just graduated, and he highly recommends the NHS as a great place to start your career. “My placement at NHSGGC helped me to gain experience in a challenging environment and develop my skills, network and knowledge of sustainability in a practical context,” he said. “I was lucky enough to extend my three-month placement to a full year of working in the Sustainability Team.

“Not only did this provide invaluable experience for my CV, but it also gave me the opportunity to work in various work streams such as staff engagement, communications and waste management. My placement also provided me with a network of lasting relationships that I developed in the office, across the organisation and outwith the NHS.

“Working with the Sustainability Team is a great place for Environmental Management students to develop their skills and experience.”

Michael Cunningham joined NHSGGC through when he signed up to the mentoring programme through GCU and paired with our Director of Facilities and Estates, Tom Steele. He said: “I was initially given a three-month internship, spending two weeks at a time with various departments. At the end of my internship I was given a year’s placement at QEUH working as on-site support for Capital Planning. Further to that, I also have been helping with the estates department carrying out maintenance related jobs.

“Without this programme, I would never have had this opportunity and would likely still be looking for a job. To that end, I am grateful that this programme exists and that people are willing to give you a chance that I hope develops into a long term career within the NHS.”