A collaboration between Devon, Dorset, Wiltshire and Somerset Wildlife Trusts, the three-year project addressed important skills shortages across the South West conservation sector.
Targeting 16 to 25 year olds and people facing challenges like unemployment, redundancy or relocation, Wildlife Skills offered 46 trainee placements of a year or more. This gave participants a comprehensive experience of seasonal activities.
The traineeships focused on three areas: surveying and monitoring, volunteer and community engagement, and practical conservation. Trainees were given hands-on teaching in natural heritage skills like hedgelaying, and could complete certificated modules from Wildlife Trust’s AQA-accredited programme.
The project pioneered flexible routes into conservation for trainees who would otherwise have found it difficult to gain employment in the sector. Trainees gained strong skill sets, filling gaps in the sector and contributing towards the future protection of our natural heritage.
Keeley Hampton, a former Community Engagement Trainee who now works as Wellbeing Project Officer at Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, said: “Without the funding, I do not believe there would be an opportunity for a person like me to gain access into conservation without having any sort of experience or qualifications in the field.”