My career with the Wildlife Trust began with me starting as a Conservation Trainee (CT) at the West Berkshire Living Landscape team based at Greenham Common.
This was somewhat of a gamble, I had just finished my BSc degree in zoology at the University of Reading and had been accepted on an MSc course. But something made me decide that perhaps some real experience in the field rather than collecting qualifications might stand me in better stead in a very competitive field of employment.
Looking back I am now sure that was the right call! The initial voluntary traineeship led on to a paid traineeship with BBOWT and following that I became BBOWT’s Community Wildlife Manager for Oxfordshire – a full-time, permanent position with the word “wildlife” in its job title – I was, and still am delighted!
This was in stark contrast to my first attempt at getting into conservation work in the early 1990s when, having recently completed a BTEC HND in Environmental Protection but with very little practical experience, I started applying for jobs. After 3 years I gave up on my dream and joined the police force!
It wasn’t an easy decision to work for free for six months, especially as I was in my forties and looking for a change in career. It obviously takes a lot of commitment and desire but from the start the traineeship was exactly what I needed – hands-on learning as part of a great, supportive team that enabled me to develop at my own pace and learn so many new practical skills.
I was given the opportunity to lead groups of volunteers, take part in ecological survey work, increase my knowledge of native plants and animals and learn about habitat conservation.
I have no doubt I would have struggled to get on the paid traineeship without the experience gained as a CT and it was a really important first step on the road to a career in conservation.