Working for nature

Working for Nature

What is the Working for Nature Traineeship?

Are you passionate about wildlife? Do you have a genuine desire for a career in outdoor nature conservation? Have you always wanted to study or train in conservation but don’t have 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 you will!

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.

What are the requirements?

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 

2. 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

Our trainees say....

Josh's story

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!

Shaun's story

My name is Shaun and I am a Working 4 Nature trainee based at Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust. I decided to pursue the traineeship after I attended the John Muir award. I had never done outdoor physical labour before and didn’t realise I would enjoy it so much. Being outdoors in a green space and doing some physical labour actually turned out to be really fun. I have since gained a big interest in conservation as a whole and am interested in pursuing a career in conservation and I hope that this traineeship will give me the skills and experience I need to succeed. So far I have done loads of different tasks outdoors as the Sheffield and Rotherham team have lots of variation in the types of sites we visit and I think that’s my favourite part. Getting to visit so many sites and improve/maintain them is really fulfilling. Overall I am really enjoying the traineeship and believe it is helping me achieve my personal goals and better myself as a person.

Sharron's story

Hi, my name is Sharron and I am placed with Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. In my past I have been actively volunteering for over 10 years in the UK and overseas. I chose the traineeship to gain experience, certificates, skills and qualifications to help in my career change into becoming a full time conservationist. I am very passionate about doing something to improve the current situation faced by the wildlife in the UK. I am delighted that I have the opportunity to retrain with a great Trust in such a fantastic location. Since starting the traineeship I have been working closely with conservation experts, alongside volunteers and reserve managers and we have been undertaking activities such as  Hedge laying, Fence repairs, Pond management, Wooden construction, Meadow clearance and identification classes.

There is so much more to experience and learn. No two days are the same.

Completing the traineeship will be an incredibly important achievement that will help me to have a better understanding of biodiversity, habitats climate change, legislation and ecosystem services. It could also support me in securing a permanent role in environmental conservation.

James' story

Hi my name is James and I’m based at the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust as a Working for Nature trainee. I chose this traineeship as I have a keen interest in our natural world and would like to gain the skills to access a career in conservation.  I left school with a few GCSE’s and entered the construction trade working in various roles.  After About 10 years in the construction industry I decided to travel abroad and volunteer on wildlife projects. Working alongside people who had put their own lives on the line to devote their time to working with nature was an inspiring experience and encouraged me to change my career path.

While I knew I wanted to work in the field of conservation I struggled to get a foot in the door as I do not have the relevant qualifications. The Working For Nature project will help me to gain the relevant skills and knowledge to enable me to access a career in conservation.

Over the last few weeks we have worked alongside employees and volunteers to assist on nature reserves that have required maintaining to restore habitat and encourage native species on to the land. These initial few weeks have given a great insight into what it takes to look after the nature reserves and how the work of staff and volunteers can transform an area of land in a few hours. 

Everyone involved in the trust has a diverse range of knowledge and specialist in their own areas of interest. It has been great learning about the local land and its diverse range of species and habitat,  this has inspired me to further my understanding and I aim to encourage others to learn and find out more about nature. 

From feeding cows, to fixing fencepost to finding out about fungi, there is lots to learn on the Working for Nature programme and I am looking forward to gaining further skills to start a career in conservation.

Mel's Story

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. 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!

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.

Great, how do I apply?...

Recruitment is underway, ready for the next Working for Nature traineeship to begin in January 2022. To apply for the traineeship, you need to: 

1. Complete the application form. Please click here to apply.

2. Complete a John Muir Discovery Award. If you came to our online Information Session, you will have the details on how to do this. If you need an information pack sending to you, please email Laura Jones. Don’t worry if you haven’t done any outdoor conservation work before! We will give you lots of tips and ideas on what you can do! 

Once we have looked through all of the applications, we shortlist the best applicants. Those applicants will be invited for a face-to-face interview in November (date to be confirmed). 

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

Apply now

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
The Wildlife Trusts believe that people are part of nature; everything we value ultimately comes from it and everything we do impacts upon it.
The Wildlife Trusts

Like what we do? Get more involved...


Get hands on


Act now