Working for Nature Trainee Scheme

Working for Nature Traineeship

What is the Working for Nature traineeship?

Are you passionate about wildlife?  Do you have a genuine desire to have a career in outdoor nature conservation?  Have you always wanted to study or train in conservation but haven’t got the right qualifications or experience yet?  Well, the Working for Nature traineeship might just be for you!

Our Working for Nature trainee scheme enables people with no previous experience or qualifications to work alongside our team and our volunteers, to develop hands-on practical experience and vital professional skills to help take that first step to a career in conservation.

Let us tell you more

Why are we doing this?

Getting into a career in conservation can be difficult – there are few employment opportunities and those that do exist are incredibly competitive.  To succeed, applicants need to have the correct training and experience and often people without a degree or equivalent formal education can be put off applying for jobs.  We want to make sure that people who are passionate about wildlife and conservation are able to train and develop the right skills to be able to successfully apply for the career of their choice.  If this sounds like you, keep reading!

How does it work?

Six funded traineeships are available each year until 2022, thanks for funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. The project is split between three of our Trusts – Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust and Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust and two trainees are taken on in each area each year.

Recruits work alongside a supervisor at the Wildlife Trust they are based at and study for a Level 2 qualification in Work-based Environmental Conservation. The traineeship is a practical one, so you will be working outdoors for much of the time alongside Wildlife Trust staff.  You study for your qualification one day a week, supplementing the practical work you do with the knowledge and skills needed to work in the sector. You complete research and written work throughout the traineeship, supported by the Working for Nature Training Officer. There is also the opportunity to complete an external work placement to gain more experience in the conservation sector.

Will I get paid?

Yes! Each placement is for a minimum of 44 weeks and working hours are 35 per week. Thanks to The National Lottery Heritage Fund, trainees receive payment of over £11,000. Full payment details and traineeship duration will be given at our information session in September. 

Our trainees say...

Kirsty's Story

My name is Kirsty Dexter and I am a Working For Nature trainee based at Attenborough Nature Centre in Nottingham.

I've always had a passion for nature and our natural environment but as I have never studied for a formal degree, I didn’t think it would be possible to pursue a career in conservation until I came across this fantastic opportunity.

I had previously worked in offices for the last 15 years and following the birth of my daughter I realised it was time to make a change and pursue a career in an area that I feel strongly towards – Nature and ensuring it is around for our future generations.

The traineeship has given us an amazing opportunity to work side by side with highly skilled, passionate people learning day to day conservation tasks and why these tasks are so vital.

So far during the course we have already undertaken a huge variety of tasks from tree felling, hedgelaying, scrub clearance, clearing invasive species, educational sessions, fixing the windows on one of our hides and even fixing a puncture on the ranger bikes. We also work with different groups of volunteers daily picking up helpful tips and knowledge along the way. Being a “hands on learner” this traineeship is ideal for me and I'm looking forward to furthering my skills and broadening my knowledge throughout the course.

One of my main interests is the educational side of conservation, passing the vital skills on and teaching the future generation to care for the natural world. I was inspired by taking my daughter to a forest school session and long-term I hope to set up my own sessions with the knowledge I obtain from the course behind me. David Attenborough once said “Understanding leads to concern and concern leads to love” and I would like to engage the younger generation in nature so that we have brighter future with nature at the heart of it.


Joshua's story

Joshua one of the Working for Nature trainees

My name is Joshua Barnsdale and I was lucky enough to be given a spot at Idle Valley Nature Reserve on this traineeship. My story started when I started volunteering at Sconce and Devon Park as a Shadow Ranger.  There I got my first taste of nature conservation and I knew that this was something I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing.

Before I started getting into my passion I suffered from extreme depression which led me to become an alcoholic with no future. Nature saved my life and gave me the confidence to climb out of that dark place and find my true calling in life.  This traineeship has helped me progress as a person and I can say that this opportunity has opened my eyes wide.

In my first month I have done everything from animal checking to wildlife management, even an outdoor first aid course which I found extremely interesting. Me and the other trainees did a harvest mouse survey which can be carried over to other species when surveying and has made me confident I can do surveys efficiently.

The ultimate goal of mine and where I hope the course can help me is to get my foot into nature conservation. I want to make this my life long career so I may better myself and improve nature not destroy it, protecting it for future generations. I believe as the world moves towards having more technology, we are forgetting where we came from and that we are not the only living things on the planet.  It is important for children to get involved with nature and their surroundings so they may pass it on when they are older.

The course has been pretty physical and mentally challenging but I feel myself improving every week and getting better adjusting to my environment. The course has taught me loads so far and I find it extremely interesting and informative. 

The course is extremely fun and interesting but has its physical side to it, it keeps you healthy and feeling good that you are helping nature and improving every day. I have only been with the Trust for a month now and I already feel I have improved mentally and physically and would honestly recommend the traineeship. If your passion is nature and working outdoors then this placement is for you, don't worry just apply for it, you won’t regret it!

Helen's Story

Hello, I’m Helen and I’m based with Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust at Attenborough Nature Centre. I grew up in Nottingham and regularly visited this lovely wetland site; an oasis of calm amongst the urban buzz of the surrounding towns and city.

My background was administration, with a bit of Pilates instruction thrown in for some much-needed variety from my desk job. I had been yearning for a career change for years and desperately wanted to make the leap from indoor to outdoor, from pushing paper to sawing wood, I just didn’t know how.  Everything changed when I freed up some time to pursue a variety of practical conservation volunteer work.  It convinced me this was absolutely the direction I wanted to go in and when I found out about the Working for Nature traineeships during the John Muir Award at Attenborough Nature Reserve, I absolutely jumped at the opportunity.

So far, I have been out with the volunteer parties, learned all about health and safety out on site and have been getting stuck in to the winter work we need to do for good management of the many reserves we work on.  I’ve just completed my first aid refresher and am looking forward to gaining my brush cutter certificate in December.

I’m aware that competition for practical conservation posts is high so I’m making the most of every opportunity and keeping an open mind as to where this might lead.  I am hoping that the traineeship will equip me with the skills to move into work that I feel passionate about, and allow me to keep contributing towards the conservation of wildlife and nature.

Mel's Story

Melissa Steele

Hi, I’m Mel, and I live in New Mills, Derbyshire, on the edge of the Peak District.

Prior to applying for the traineeship, I had spent 8 years in the financial services industry but had become increasingly unhappy and my job was taking a huge toll on my mental wellbeing. I decided to leave my job in search of my “why” and my search soon led me to the Working for Nature traineeship on the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust website. I think fate was at play because the information session took place the day after my final day in finance!

I remember feeling very intimidated and that there was no chance of me obtaining a traineeship place (that all too familiar imposter syndrome creeping in!) but my advice would be this…

If you have a genuine passion for the environment, for wildlife, and caring for the precious world we live in, and think that perhaps a career in conservation might be for you, then push all those doubts aside and just go for it! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

I will never forget my nanna saying to me “we’ve got Mel back” only a few weeks into the traineeship, because the transformation and happiness it brought about was almost instant.

It is such a healthy and supportive environment and the friendliness of everyone will soon put you at ease.The traineeship has equipped me with more knowledge and practical skills than I could ever have imagined in a relatively short space of time.

Melissa Steele

Just some of the things I have been up to are: learning tree and wildflower ID skills, taming sheep, assisting with cattle TB testing and the badger vaccination, driving the pickup truck, visitor risk assessments, fixing fences, building drystone walls, QGIS training (mapping), volunteer work parties, installing waymarkers, building steps, forest school, outdoor first aid… the list really does go on.

The opportunities available depend on where you are based and the supervisor you are assigned, but there is the ability to tailor the traineeship to some degree through discussions with your supervisor based on your interests.

The traineeship has been a pivotal period in my life. It has helped lift me out of a dark place, given me a renewed sense of purpose and confirmed that this is a sector that I wish to pursue a career in. I am not sure what will be next for me but I am currently exploring the potential avenues, aided by discussions with my supervisor and other trust members. The traineeship has provided invaluable experience that demonstrates a range of transferrable skills for future employment.

However, the biggest thing for me, in addition to everything I have learnt, is the confidence that the traineeship has given me. For the first time in a very long time, I feel I have found my place and I am around people who hold similar values, and for me, it doesn’t get any better than that!

If you’d like to find out more about the Working for Nature traineeship or need additional information to consider if the traineeship might be right for you, please contact Lisa Witham by email ( or telephone 07384 810159.

Melissa Steele

Jade's Story


My name’s Jade and I’m currently a Working for Nature trainee with Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife trust.  I decided to apply for the traineeship scheme to give me a chance and opportunity to start a career in conservation, away from jobs I haven’t particularly enjoyed. I didn’t continue education after my GCSEs for many reasons and always struggled in academic studies, finding it easier to learn practically. As I got older I realised that environmental conservation was a career I was very interested in but didn’t have any of the right experience to apply and financially would have struggled relying on volunteering. It also proved very hard to find a traineeship scheme being over 25 until I came across the Working for Nature scheme.

Since starting the traineeship I have learnt so much already.  Being someone who suffers a lot with anxiety, I have found it to be an extremely supportive environment – support which I think has been crucial for me starting in a completely new sector and giving me the confidence to push myself and giving me hope that this is a career I can see myself progressing into.

I am 9 months into this now and have learnt many different skills including ID Skills, coppicing and woodland work, dry stone walling, maintenance work including path work and step building and shrub clearance. The list could go on!  Plus being able to pass my first aid and brush cutter course has been extremely useful for my career, something I would have struggled to finance without this traineeship.


Working outside everyday has been amazing and so much fun. I sometimes can’t believe I’ve been given this opportunity; I feel very lucky and extremely grateful. Working with other volunteers has been a great part of this job, they are a friendly bunch and it’s always nice to have chats with them whilst working and has also been helpful learning from other volunteers too.

There have been times when it’s been tough, the diploma side has felt quite overwhelming at times considering I struggle with written work, but over time I’ve managed to deal with this and there has always been support and patience throughout. I can also struggle when working and learning new skills in group environments but like I mentioned before the support has always been there and feel I am listened to and have been able to overcome these situations in my own way.

This course has opened a lot of career choices for me.  I am particularly interested in learning more about woodland work, which has inspired me to already book myself onto a woodland management course.  I am also now looking at applying for Assistant Ranger jobs and work with the Forestry Commission; jobs that I can now see myself applying for since starting this traineeship.

Before this course I thought I would continue to work in jobs I didn’t enjoy.  Now I have a chance to finally work in an area that I enjoy and a job that I can express myself in, being so passionate about nature and the environment.  The traineeship has given me skills and experience that are crucial when it comes to applying for outdoor work within land management and conservation. This course has also played a huge part in my self-development which has given me a huge amount of self-confidence.


Kayleigh's Story

Kayleigh Wright

Hello, my name is Kayleigh and I am a Working for Nature trainee with Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, based in the idyllic Derwent Valley. Since leaving school over seven years ago, I had been in job positions that weren’t for me and had a tough time deciding what I wanted to do for a career. I’ve always had a love for the great outdoors but it wasn’t until last year, during the first lockdown, when I finally discovered that working in the conservation sector was something that I had been looking for after all this time.

I took some time to do some research into a career in this sector and so that’s when I came across the Working for Nature traineeship. I had no practical experience working in the conservation sector, apart from some voluntary work with my local community and making my own wildlife friendly garden. I was immediately interested in applying for the traineeship as previous experience or qualifications weren’t needed and I thought this would be a great way to get my foot in the door within conservation.

I’m currently halfway through my traineeship and I am enjoying every moment. I spend most of my days out at nature reserves gaining an insight into how the sites are managed, taking on practical work alongside volunteers and gaining plenty of experience using different tools that I have never used before. I’ve learnt how to coppice trees, joined in on a great crested newt survey, helped build a boardwalk, had a fantastic time at a dry stone walling residential and have had many great wildlife encounters including seeing the peregrine falcon chicks being ringed with the Derbyshire Cathedral Peregrine Project.

Something I didn’t think I would get to do is utilise my creative skills. With my love for photography I’ve been able to assist the marketing team with blog posts, social media takeovers and campaigns such as ‘Grow Don’t Mow’. It’s been a varied experience so far and I am looking forward to the last few months of the traineeship!

My biggest goal before starting the traineeship was that I wanted to believe in myself again after recently going through a tough time with depression. Working outdoors, surrounded by nature and learning new things has already helped me build up my confidence and has allowed me to start believing in myself again. I hope to land a career in the conservation sector and believe that this traineeship is helping me to get one step closer to making that happen.

Kayleigh Wright

Who we are looking for

You do not need to have any specific training or qualifications to apply for the Working for Nature traineeship, but we are specifically looking for individuals who:

  • Have a genuine passion for the natural world and conservation and a desire to work in the conservation sector.
  • Are over the age of 18 at the start of the traineeship.
  • Have not received graduate level education. You must not have a degree to be eligible to apply. If you have a degree, please contact your local Wildlife Trust for volunteer and training opportunities.  
  • Have some knowledge of why conserving nature is important.  Any experience you have of conservation volunteering will help you to demonstrate your awareness, passion and commitment to nature.
  • Have a strong work ethic.
  • Are punctual and reliable.
  • Have determination and perseverance.
  • Are willing to learn new skills.
  • Can commit to a full time schedule of 35 hours a week of training starting in January 2022.
  • Have their own transport (this is necessary to allow us to conform to any Covid-19 recommendations for safe working).
  • Do not do any paid work during the traineeship – this is due to the funding requirements of the traineeship.
  • Are eligible to work in the UK.

The WFN team want to attract people with a wide range of abilities and from different backgrounds, to represent the UK as a whole. We are an inclusive employer and encourage applications from all sections of the community, particularly those underrepresented within our sector, such as people from black, Asian, minority Ethnic backgrounds, those with mental health issues, with no prior qualifications and those interested in changing career.  

If this sounds like something for you, you have enthusiasm for the natural world and are ready to learn new skills, please:

  1. Read the Working for Nature Trainee Role Description
  1. See details on how to apply below

Great, how do I apply?

Recruitment is underway, ready for the next Working for Nature traineeship to begin in January 2022 and applications have now closed.

Please keep up to date with the traineeship and future opportunities to train with us by checking this page for updates and by following us on Twitter and Instagram @working4nature. 

If you have any questions in the meantime, please contact Laura Jones, Working for Nature Project Officer on


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With thanks to...

The fascinating project has been made possible thanks to National Lottery players through The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

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