After completing her Masters degree during the pandemic, Laura, 26, was eager to break into the environmental sector. Trying to do this whilst being in an extended period of autistic burnout proved to be difficult and massively knocked her confidence. Now as the Access to Nature Project Assistant at the RSPB Belfast’s Window on Wildlife nature reserve, Laura is building back her confidence in a role focused on making nature accessible to people like her. 

Despite multiple qualifications and years of unpaid volunteering experience, Laura found that not only were most roles in the sector inaccessible to her as an autistic person, but so was the recruitment process, as interviews and communicating with new people can be especially challenging.  

When Laura came across the Access to Nature role, created through New to Nature, it sounded like it was made just for her! The job combines her passion for conservation with her desire to make the environmental sector more diverse. She also felt empowered to apply as RSPB had made an effort to make their job description inclusive and Laura was confident that accommodations would gladly be given to her. 

In the role, Laura gets to experience a range of RSPB’s work. As well as practical conservation and welcoming visitors, Laura is also doing research on ways to make the reserve more neurodivergent-friendly. She has particularly enjoyed getting to mentor a group of student researchers and teach them about wildlife and scientific research. Laura has been able to thrive in a supportive work environment that provides her with reasonable adjustments, such as working flexible hours. 

Beyond the placement, Laura hopes to continue working in the conservation sector, where she has ambitions to combine her new-found knowledge and lived experience to continue making nature more accessible for all.  

Laura said: 

“Creating roles that have a person’s experiences like this at the core not only creates new job opportunities for underrepresented groups, but it helps the organisation to learn and grow from their experiences.  

“It has been very helpful to have a network of other trainees to connect with and provide peer support. It’s great to have others who are going through the exact same thing and who are also ‘new to nature’.” 

This was the first job I’ve had where my neurodiversity was actually an asset and not something that I had to cover up or something that made me less employable. Not only is the job accessible to me, the placement is centred around making nature more accessible to people like me

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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