‘Environmental conservation requires an estimated 30,000 new entrants by 2020 to maintain and protect our countryside, while in forestry, 53 per cent of the workforce is over the age of 40’ Alice Singleton for Farmers Guardian Insight.

A career in conservation has not been a popular choice for the younger generation for many a year. It has been a concern of many within the field that it could become a dying trade and the working sector could lose a valuable skill set. However, today it is becoming a sought after career, not only to avoid the 9-5 office job and the appeal of working in the great outdoors but because of the brilliant opportunities available.

There is a wide range of entry routes for a career in conservation which is necessary to combat the numerous environmental concerns prevalent in the world today. Volunteering is usually the first step towards this type of career and can be an invaluable experience to gain a broad skill set. Rutland Water Nature Reserve offers the chance to volunteer at an internationally important reserve and become involved with a wide range of projects and habitat management schemes. The reserve also runs a yearlong Trainee Reserve Officer (TRO) post, which I was fortunate enough to be involved in.

During my traineeship in 2013 I had a brilliant and diverse year at the reserve helping me to pursue a career in conservation. I never thought that I’d help build a 45 foot hide, drive a dumper truck or fell a tree. The year opened my eyes into other parts of wildlife conservation that I had not considered before, such as bird ringing. It was a great privilege to work behind the scenes at the reserve and has always been a friendly place to return to. The reserve staff, volunteers and the new society, ‘Wild Futures’ are a great support and continue to encourage and pass on new skills for my career in conservation.

Wild Futures 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. Members have 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 fields, through Wild Futures’ connections within the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust and Rutland Natural History Society.

Many young people at the reserve have been able to develop their skills. Both the Traineeship and Wild Futures have helped forge a path for their future in conservation:

During my time as a TRO I was able to gain a unique chance to experience the fantastic work carried out at Rutland whilst learning new skills and gain an insight into the world of conservation. I have been able to take these skills with me and forge the beginnings of a career that I believe I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to achieve if I hadn’t completed my time at Rutland. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to pass on the things I have learnt whilst working in ecology and conservation but also to further my own learning from the experiences and knowledge of the inspirational mentors and members in Wild Futures” Oli Grice-Jackson, TRO 2014.

Volunteering at Rutland Water, has helped me to develop a wide range of skills that I will utilise to further my career in wildlife conservation. From how to lay a hedge to the identification of the many birds found on the reserve. Not only this but I have met some of the most amazing role models and made new friends. Wild Futures is helping me to further these experiences by allowing me to engage with knowledgeable people from all walks of life. The time I have spent at Rutland Water has not only helped to shape my career but also me as a person” Anya Wicikowski, TRO 2015.

Through the support of everyone involved in Wild Futures I have been able to secure a career in conservation and I encourage anyone with the same career aspirations to come and get involved. Our mission within the society is to create an opportunity to share knowledge between generations in order not to deplete our natural resources and to help set up the necessary skill set for a career in conservation. Wild Futures enables a chance to invest in young people, to create true resilience against losing valuable skills. We are building a proactive and viable knowledge bank by supporting and nurturing knowledge of the natural world, and supporting those young people who will carry conservation into the future.

Amelia Woolford, Chairperson – Wild Futures

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