Following a work experience placement at Rutland Water Nature Reserve as a teenager, I began volunteering for LRWT. The skills and experience I gained through volunteering during the remainder of my school years and time at University has been key to finding the career path which suits my expertise and aptitudes.
13 years have passed since those first couple of weeks work experience, and in that time I have worked with hundreds of people who have helped me shape my future. I have learnt so much from the staff and volunteers who have invested their time and knowledge in me, introduced me to friends and colleagues who could help along the way and given me opportunities to experience something I might not have before.
This experience has empowered me to try and help other young people obtain the multidisciplinary skills and broad range of experience they might need to accompany their academic qualifications in the future.
LRWT provides an incredible range of educational and volunteering experiences for young people, from being a toddler right through to adulthood at 18 there is something to give the next generation of wildlife enthusiasts a chance to connect with nature; Nature Tots, Wildlife Watch, school visits and forest schools, activity days, work experience placements, the Wild Skills volunteer group at RWNR and much more. We watch young people develop a love of wildlife from an early age, and grow into dedicated young naturalists some of whom hope to embark on a career in nature conservation.
This year a handful of Rutland Water Nature Reserve’s Wild Skills team turn 18 and become too old to be a part of the group; this got me thinking, what will they do next? They have grown up in our community – are our links with them strong enough to keep them a part of it? Organisations such as ours need to engage with young adults, they are the next generation of members, volunteers, staff etc. if not during their working years we could be something they come back to later in life. At 18 young people can volunteer or get involved independently for LRWT or any organisation, but is this enough?
One of the reasons I enjoy working for LRWT is that we recognise volunteering is a two-way street – the Volunteer Training Centre is symbolic of this, representing the need to invest skills in our volunteer teams as they have just as much to gain by giving their time as we do from their input. For young volunteers, as I describe my experience above, this can be career or even life changing. From this notion the idea of a new group, Wild Futures was formed – with the idea of creating an opportunity which would promote what young people could get out of the group in equal measures to what they could give.
LRWT and the Rutland Natural History Society (RNHS) have joined forces in this exciting new initiative, and launched Wild Futures in November 2015; it is a society for young people aged 18-30 embarking on a career in wildlife conservation or with a general love of the natural world. It will provide members with the opportunity to be part of a wildlife-focused social network in Rutland, gain knowledge and experience, and have access to mentors in a variety of expertise through its connections within the LRWT and RNHS community. It’s very much a local project for local people, but I hope mentors will be able to open doors to opportunities beyond Leicestershire and Rutland too.
The group will hopefully attract young volunteers previously involved in Rutland Water Nature Reserve’s Wild Skills group, as well as Trainee Reserve Officers past and present, work placement students, local colleges/universities and other young people engaged through LRWT activities throughout Leicestershire and Rutland. The overall aim of this society is to create opportunities that encourage knowledge exchange between generations. By investing knowledge through a programme of talks, workshops, field visits and practical experience, as well as advice and coaching by mentors, we will create a pool of young people, equipped with a range of wildlife knowledge and the practical and transferable skills needed for a career in the conservation sector. These young people will then hopefully go on to be the members, volunteers, trainees and staff of our organisations of the future, and in turn invest their knowledge and skills in to the next generation of Wild Futures members.
Wild Futures has already united fifteen like-minded contemporaries, keen to make the most of the chance to learn, explore and work together and make a difference to wildlife and wild places and continue to be a part of our community however and whenever they can.
Watch this space for news of the group’s progress!
This blog post features in the winter edition of the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust’s members newsletter Wildlife News. To find out how you can become a member CLICK HERE