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 along a supervisor at the Wildlife Trust they are based at and study for a Level 2 City and Guilds Diploma in Work-based Environmental Conservation, supported by the Working for Nature Training Officer.  The traineeship is a practical one, so you will be working outdoors for much of the time.  You study in either an indoor or outdoor classroom one day a week to work through your Diploma.  This includes research and written work which you complete throughout the traineeship and is assessed as you go along. There is also the opportunity to complete an external work placement to gain more experience in the conservation sector. 

Will I get paid?

Yes you will.

Each placement lasts for 44 weeks and working hours are 35 per week.  Trainees receive a tax-free bursary of over £11,000 to pay for rent, bills, food etc. whilst they are in training. 

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.

Great. How do I apply?

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 the Wildlife Trust’s volunteer trainee schemes may be suitable for you
  • 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 (or part time on request) of training starting in January 2021
  • Have their own transport (this is necessary at this moment in time to allow us to conform to Covid-19 recommendations for safe working)
  • Do not do any paid work during the traineeship – this is due to the requirements of the bursary agreement.
  • 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

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

How to apply

The next round of Working for Nature training will start in January 2021.  Recruitment for this round is currently underway, and all new applications are now closed for 2021.   Keep an eye out on our website for the next round of recruitment (planned in for August/September 2021).

For those that have applied, if you have any questions 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.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund Logo