How a traineeship is helping to kickstart my career in conservation

How a traineeship is helping to kickstart my career in conservation

Anna tells us about how a traineeship is helping her to gain lost skills due to the pandemic

Having visited British nature reserves regularly since childhood, I have always been inspired by the range of biodiversity, and the sense of escapism and well-being benefits found at any reserve, a feeling I am sure many people will share after the past 18 months.

Knowing that I wanted to dedicate my career to protecting these safe havens for the natural world, and inspiring others to do so too, I decided to undertake a degree in Zoology. My degree taught me about the huge diversity of animals on our planet, their functions, behaviours and their interactions with the environment.

We are always told that one of the most vital things to have under your belt when starting your career is relevant work experience. With the pandemic preventing access to key practical and fieldwork skills, this was something I (and many others) was lacking. I personally lost out on many opportunities to carry out fieldwork in places like Anglesey and The Peak District. Going into the world of work at the end of my degree was a daunting prospect.

So, with my graduation from the University of Sheffield looming, I was on the hunt for any opportunities to gain practical skills in the field of nature conservation.

I have always had an interest in the work of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, a charitable organisation with the aim of protecting Yorkshires wildlife and wild places, through the restoration and management of over 100 nature reserves. They also play a huge part in connecting people with the nature around them.

When I discovered that they offer 12 month Voluntary Traineeships, with the chance to complete external training courses, I decided this was the perfect opportunity to gain vital skills and kickstart my career. The conservation sector is a fast-paced and exciting field of work, and the idea of spending a year helping to conserve our local nature reserves was a wonderful prospect.

Looking across a lake at North Cave Wetlands in blue skies, with trees to the left of the image

Starting the traineeship in July gave me the chance to experience working within the organisation three days a week, learning from the like-minded team of people around me.

Now in the 10th week of my traineeship, it has exceeded my expectations and I have already learnt more than I had imagined. I have regularly worked alongside the reserves officer and a group of friendly volunteers, to carry out habitat management on nature reserves in the Lower Aire Valley region. I have gained a huge array of practical habitat management skills, including the use of a brush cutter, meadow management to allow native species to thrive the following season, removal of invasive species such as Himalayan Balsam, clearing of ponds to provide vital habitat for amphibians and invertebrate species, and carrying out bench and fence repairs on reserves. I have also enjoyed carrying out office-based tasks such reviewing risk assessments, planning task days and doing training plans.

My traineeship is helping me gain first-hand experience in all aspects of the conservation sector, and I am constantly learning and gaining new skills. These traineeships are a fantastic opportunity for anyone – from someone at the beginning of their career, to those wanting a change in direction – to gain experience in the conservation sector. As the seasons change, bringing changes in the necessary habitat management tasks, I am very excited for what the rest of the year brings, and what else I will learn.