Organisation:Ordnance Survey
Contact Name:Anne Patrick, Research Project Coordinator
Graduate Intern Name:Fred Warner
Placement Title:Ordnance Survey Summer Placements
Dates of Placement:Summer 2014

To the public, Ordnance Survey is best known for its paper maps. In fact, there are around 650 different recreational and leisure maps alone, together covering every corner of Britain. And even in the internet age, we still sell around 2.5 million paper maps every year.

Ordnance Survey is Great Britain's national mapping authority, providing geographic data, relied on by government, business and individuals...

But today it is digital mapping data that accounts for around 90% of our business. Both the public and private sectors need an accurate, reliable geographic framework to help them deliver effective and efficient services and make better decisions.

As 80% of all information collected in Britain has some geographic feature to it – from the location of people, buildings, and postcodes to administrative boundaries – the potential for linking and analysing different sets of information is enormous.

Each year the Ordnance Survey offers six placements during the summer months to students at the end of their second year. Various disciplines are considered including Geography, Computer Science and Psychology. The placements can be for a maximum of 12 weeks but the start and end dates can vary depending on what availability each student has.

We receive several speculative CVs from students each year so we don’t need to advertise the placements. Fred’s CV covered all the aspects that we were looking for so offered him a placement. We had also had a student from Birmingham University the previous summer who worked very well.

As already mentioned we don’t actually advertise the placements as we always get enough speculative enquiries from students. We collate the CVs over several months as we get the first enquiries from about October. We then sit down in Feb/March time and go through the CVs and covering letters to decide which students seem to have the most experience and interest in what we’re doing.

We had four students all working on the same project. They have been finding sources of third party that can be used to enrich our own data. This has been searching on websites and then adding information onto a website they have created.

It is always useful to have students working on projects that staff don’t always have time to work on. It gives an extra dimension to the project.

I am always amazed at how confident the students are when coming into an established workplace and this year was no different. They all worked well together and fitted in no problem.

We don’t expect any technical skills as such, just some general computing and GIS skills and a willingness to learn. We have not been disappointed this year!

It is a very valuable experience both for the employer and the student. If a student is going to do work experience over the summer months, then to do it at an employer relevant to their degree is a bonus as they will learn skills that they can continue with during their course. For an employer, it can be a risk that the student won’t have the skills required initially, but in our experience they pick things up incredibly quickly and are very keen to learn.

Yes I would.

Yes, very much so.

Fred has been very conscientious and of great help and support to the other students when they required extra help. He has been a great student to have here during the summer.

I found the internship opportunity on the careers centre website and applied as I have an interest in GIS and mapping and hope to do something in that area when I’m older. So the chance of getting an internship at the Ordnance Survey seemed like a good opportunity and what was the worst that could happen, they reject me?

I was a bit concerned about how strict/formal it was going to be. But that preconception was dispelled when I asked about what I should wear and was told that I wasn’t expected to wear a full suit; instead shirt and trousers would be more than adequate. Upon arrival I found that almost all, if not all, of the people I came into contact with were pretty laid back and relaxed which was really nice and made me feel really comfortable.

I wasn’t especially nervous when I arrived on my first day because I had already gained a pretty good idea of what it was going to be like through contact with Anne Patrick.

I had expected to be working more with ArcMap, ArcCatalogue or ArcScene but I’ve not really used them that much, in fact I don’t think I’ve used them at all in last 4 weeks or so.

I think the main thing I was hoping to gain from the internship was to get a feel for what it’s like to be in a proper job / office environment and to see if it’s the sort of thing I could do in the long term.

I think the best employability skill that this internship will show has been the ability to learn on my own. I came into the experience with absolutely no computer programming experience and in the 4 to 5 weeks that have followed on from my first 2 weeks of data collection I’ve learnt a lot in 3 different languages and have been able to create a website with several interactive maps.

My first impressions were a bit funny, although it all became clear as to why that was. During my first few days my boss/supervisor, as it were, wasn’t here and was on holiday so I didn’t really know what I was supposed to be doing. However, this did give me the opportunity to settle in and meant that it was quite a gradual introduction into working which was nice and I was given some other work to be doing during this time period. Similarly, I arrived on the same day that company re-organisation emails went out which meant that some of the members of staff were quite stressed/concerned. But even during this all of the staff were really nice and very friendly, especially during lunch when I would sit on a table with some of the other people from the research department.

Once my boss/supervisor arrived after I’d been at work for a couple of days (two I think) and I had more direction in what I was going to be doing, I enjoyed it much more. Similarly, once the initial confusion of the re-organisation had subsided then the staff became more themselves.

Looking into the best sources of 3rd party data and at how easy (or not as the case has been) it is to incorporate that information into what the OS already knows and to question the reliability and suitability of the data sets.

Building a website that displays the data that I have collected along with the analysis that I have/am carried/carrying out.

I spent my first two weeks or so collecting data which was a little bit dull, but again it was quite nice to have something very simple to be doing while I was still new to the internship and getting a feel for the place. I think this may also have coincided with when some of the other interns arrived. I was the second of four to start and once the remaining two had arrived we were all given a more in depth explanation of what it was hoped that we would be able to achieve.

I’m now in the back-end stages of building a website that has four interactive maps that display the data that I collected in my first few weeks as well as displaying the analysis that I have carried out on the data. Once I’ve finished this, I’m going to be working on creating my own JavaScript function.

The staff with whom I’ve been in contact have been very helpful and ever so nice. The experience of building the website, learning some different aspects of computer programming with no prior experience, and learning to work with APIs has been done in a way that I’ve really enjoyed. We were somewhat thrown in at the deep end and were told that we could basically learn whatever we wanted to do. But then if we needed and help, wanted any guidance or support then the staff were there for us to go and ask and who were then very good at helping out. Personally, I’ve really enjoyed just being able to play about with a series of computer code and learning it on my own through breaking it and then trying to fix it, or by just changing numbers and tags seeing what changes.

Doing an internship! Especially if they’re geography students like I am. Having some sort of work experience to back up the degree is likely to prove very valuable.

Plus it was paid, which was brilliant as I was going to have to get a job over the summer. I will have made in the region of £2,000 net profit from the experience.

I’d suggest applying for absolutely any internship that you even have a vague interest in. I applied for five or six, including one to Chester Zoo. At the end of the day what was the worst that could happen by applying for quite a lot of internships, that I’d be rejected for some of them? Simply move on and apply for more.

Don’t forget to apply for any of the bursaries that the University offers like I did…