When I finished University, I wasn’t one hundred per cent sure what I wanted to do with my Natural Sciences degree. I had a real interest in meteorology from learning to hang glide but, at the time, the Met Office wasn’t looking for forecasters and I wasn’t quite so keen to go down the research route. I ended up working in engineering for a leading British company. But after two years, I decided I wanted to move on and do something to further my interest in the weather. When I saw that the Met Office was recruiting trainee forecasters, I jumped at the chance – and four years later, I’ve never looked back. The good thing about the Trainee Forecasters’ programme is that the Met Office takes on people with no forecasting experience whatsoever. You could be a graduate fresh out of university; the main thing is that you’re keen to learn. You spend five to six months at the Met Office College in Exeter taking the Initial Forecasting Course. It’s an intensive learning experience that teaches you everything you need to know about meteorology and forecasting and from the very beginning, I really enjoyed it. The work is a mixture of theory and practical forecasting skills and is followed by a period of on-the-job training in which you’ll be doubled up one-to-one with a qualified forecaster. This and your subsequent work, once qualified, can be in Exeter, Aberdeen or at one of the RAF stations across the country. The college is internationally recognised with people from all over the world coming to take the course, which means you get to meet lots of new people.
I’m working as a fully qualified Forecaster now, and I love it. Our forecasts are crucial and often business critical to a range of different industries and people, so each shift brings a range of responsibilities and challenges.
One day I could be producing a set of forecasts for airports or the London Underground; the next, writing scripts for the Met Office website or the radio. Tasks can overlap but the weather is different every single day so there’s constant variety. At the moment, I’m spending about half of my time at the college helping to train forecasters. I can relate to them well as it wasn’t so long ago that I was in their shoes.
One of the best things about working for the Met Office is that you can get involved with so many interesting things outside of your day-to-day work. Forecasters are encouraged to spread their wings and work on projects in different parts of the business or, indeed, different parts of the world. I spent three months working in the Falkland Islands which was a very different experience – the Met Office there is only eight people! It was great though as I got to apply some of the observing skills that I’d learnt and do something a bit different. The best thing about working at the Met Office is that every day you’re making a real difference. Whether I’m helping out trainee forecasters, producing accurate forecasts so that planes can take off safely or observing in the Falklands, I get to see my work having a huge impact on real people and situations. It’s rewarding and really quite inspiring. You feel useful every day. And because there are plenty of new things to experience, you’re constantly learning and being fascinated.
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