Despite the transferrable skills Hugh gained from his chemistry degree, he had no prior education or experience that would allow him to gain an entry level career in the environmental conservation sector. New to Nature was able provide this and not overlook his passion for the environment. Now 22, Hugh has learnt essential skills during his placement at Earth Trust, through which he can pursue his dreams of working on environmental conservation projects across the UK. 
Photo oh Hugh

Before this placement, Hugh was working at his local branch of Tesco, after graduating from the University of Reading. He was looking for an entry level position in the conservation sector but knew this would be difficult, not having any sort of education towards the ecology of conservation. If he hadn’t found the New to Nature programme, Hugh might have been looking at a very different job that related to his degree – but his passion for wildlife would not have been fulfilled. 

Out of all the New to Nature placements available, Hugh found Earth Trust the most appealing. There was a variety of different sites that he could explore, from woodlands to grass meadows. All of its buildings had been designed and built with the environment in mind, and the organisation demonstrated nature-based solutions to current ecological issues.

Hugh also hoped to learn how to correctly manage woodlands to boost biodiversity on his traineeship. He wished to be able to effectively organise and lead volunteer sessions, and to manage a minimum of three projects all in different areas. Hugh has gained an understanding of these things, and more, including fascinating knowledge about the biodiversity of ancient trees – facts that surprised him and reinforced the importance of finding and protecting these trees. 

Each day of the week is dedicated to a different one of Hugh’s projects: one is given for Ancient and Veteran trees projects where Hugh surveys different zones of woods. Sometimes he takes volunteers and teaches them the ecological significance of these trees whilst surveying. Another day, Hugh will be working on his ‘Youth Volunteering programme’, where his responsibilities range from creating activity guides, to writing risk assessments and ensuring the correct health and safety precautions.

New to Nature has helped further Hugh’s goal to work on projects re-wilding natural spaces across the UK and projects that aim to reintroduce once-native wildlife and plant species. His work in woodlands with Earth Trust has cemented his future ambition to protect UK woodlands, which he believes are not only ecologically important, but bring lots of joy into people’s life. 

Hugh said: 

“Despite having many transferrable skills and a passion for wildlife and the environment, I would have found it extremely difficult to find an entry level role that is similar to my placement.  

“I was motivated to apply because this placement would allow me to get my foot into the door and gain invaluable experience in the conservation sector and hopefully equip me with the skills for a continued and successful career in conservation.  

“My role has had a positive impact on both my physical and mental wellbeing. Physically my role requires me to be out and about for some of the day. This combined with my daily cycle to work means I keep at an excellent level of fitness. Mentally I have never been better, I am doing a job I love and I am learning new things every day!

“My Groundwork liaison Nicky has been a massive help, scheduling monthly meetings with me to check in with how I am doing and whether there is anything she can do to help.”

More people should definitely have the opportunity to participate in a program like this. It gives direction to people who are looking to join the environmental sector and gives them a way forward. It also allows people who have no background in conservation to switch careers and take skills and experience they have learnt elsewhere into this role.

New to Nature is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund as part of the celebrations to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the King’s Coronation, delivered through a partnership of Groundwork, The Prince’s Trust, Disability Rights UK, Mission Diverse and the Youth Environmental Service.

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