Traineeship opens path for career in nature conservation

Thursday 7th December 2017

Trainees who completed their one-year traineeship with Ulster WildlifeTrainees who completed their one-year traineeship with Ulster Wildlife

Achieving employment in any job is challenging in today’s current economic climate, but when it is your dream job within the environment sector, it is particularly tough. Thanks to funding from Heritage Lottery Fund’s Skills for the Future Programme, seven passionate and talented trainees are celebrating their success having completed a year-long paid traineeship with Ulster Wildlife.

Throughout their action-packed year, the trainees gained a wide range of specialist skills and training to help secure a future career protecting our wildlife and wild places, from hands-on work laying hedges and controlling invasive species on Ulster Wildlife’s suite of nature reserves to assisting with marine conservation projects around our coast.

The trainees also learnt how to identify and survey our diverse local wildlife, from birds and butterflies to basking sharks, and helped to inspire people of all ages about nature on their doorstep, from leading nature walks and education workshops to delivering snorkel safaris throughout the summer.

As well as receiving training and mentoring in-house, the trainees undertook certified training courses, workshops with leading nature experts and obtained work experience with other organisations in the sector such as RSPB and National Trust, as well as working aboard the AFBI Corystes research vessel. In between their very busy work schedule, trainees also achieved a new Lantra accreditation in Natural Heritage Skills.

Genevieve O’Reilly, from Belfast, is one of the trainees whose career has been given a welcome boost by the traineeship, having now secured paid employment in the conservation sector.

“Coming to conservation later in life, largely through volunteering and unpaid work, the opportunity to work and learn full-time with assistance from a bursary was a big break for me," she said.

The broad scope of the training and the experience gained....has really boosted my skills, confidence and enthusiasm to follow my dream of a lifelong career in nature conservation.

"The broad scope of the training and the experience gained, working with a fantastic team in a great organisation, has really boosted my skills, confidence and enthusiasm to follow my dream of a lifelong career in nature conservation. I have already secured part-time temporary employment in the sector and hope to progress from there!”

During the three years of Ulster Wildlife’s Nature Skills Traineeship, over 700 applications were received for 18 highly sought-after places, with two-thirds of trainees gaining paid employment within the environment sector upon completion.

Speaking of the project’s achievements at a celebration event held in the Titanic Hotel, last week, Paul Mullan, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund in NI, said:

“We were delighted to hear the stories of the latest trainees who have passed through the Ulster Wildlife’s skills training.

"There is no quick fix to the problem of skills shortages in the heritage sector but we know our Skills for the Future programme can drive successful and lasting change.

"By pairing trainees with experts they gain access to specialist knowledge plus practical, paid, on-the-job experience. It’s simple yet highly effective but requires funding which we are delighted to provide, thanks to National Lottery players.”

For more information, or to follow the journey of this year’s trainees, visit



Tagged with: Heritage Lottery fund, Lottery Players, Nature conservation, Skills for the Future, Traineeship