A group of young people gave their views at an international youth conference on why the climate and nature emergencies require a more inclusive approach to creating a new green workforce for the future. 

Speaking as part of a panel discussion at the four-day One Young World Conference, the young adults told the crowd of their experiences of nature-based traineeships as part of New to Nature, a UK-wide work-placement programme. 

With the support of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, New to Nature offered paid work placements to almost 100 young people across the UK until Autumn 2025, in celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the King’s Coronation.  Young people from diverse backgrounds, including those with disabilities, low-income households and from black and minority ethnic communities, were all encouraged to apply for a range of exciting environmental roles. 

Kira Flanagan, aged 23, and Thea Priestly, aged 24, are both New to Nature trainees at Groundwork Northern Ireland and were one of six young panellists to share their experience with conference delegates. 

Speaking on a One Young World panel was a really great opportunity to share our New to Nature placements and how much we value being part of the programme. Getting to share our passion for climate and nature in a room full of peers was a really encouraging experience.”

Thea Priestly, New to Nature Trainee

Representing young people from disadvantaged backgrounds on the panel was an empowering experience. Having the opportunity to share my own story and be involved in powerful and current discussions through my New To Nature placement allows other young people to believe that they too have a voice that matters and needs to be heard.

Kira Flanagan, New to Nature Trainee

New to Nature offers young trainees a dedicated coach or mentor able to build a trusting relationship with each trainee to improve their confidence as well as training and careers inspiration and peer to peer support.  Trainees on the 12-month scheme are also supported to transition into further work or learning post-placement through a combination of skills matching to live job opportunities, CV writing support and facilitated links to wide programmes and apprenticeships. 

In Northern Ireland, New to Nature has funded seven placements in a wide range of organisations including Ulster Wildlife, Belfast Hills Partnership, RSPB, National Trust and Groundwork Northern Ireland.

It was fantastic to see New to Nature trainees from Groundwork Northern Ireland, Belfast Hills Partnership and RSPB speak so fearlessly about the climate and nature crises and the action they want to see adults take. We know that this is a topic young people care passionately about and recent research supported by Groundwork indicates they hope simply to enjoy what many of us take for granted and see better nature and climate as central to the life they want to live. They also want to see more priority given to green jobs and skills and New to Nature is a perfect example of what can be achieved when we create more accessible pathways into green careers for young job seekers, particularly those from underrepresented groups.

David Law, Chair, of Groundwork Northern Ireland

I have heard how inspiring and passionate the New to Nature trainees were in speaking at the conference, which underlines why New to Nature has been a key project for us to support from the start. The environment is for everyone, and it is so important to have a diverse range of voices to care and champion our precious natural heritage. It is wonderful to hear our Northern Ireland trainees were such confident and eloquent voices and we know they will bring new insights and freshness to the debate.

Paul Mullan, Director, Northern Ireland, The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Notes to Editors

For more information please contact: media@groundwork.org.uk

About Groundwork

Groundwork is a charity working locally and nationally to transform lives in the UK’s most disadvantaged communities.

We’re passionate about creating a future where every neighbourhood is vibrant and green, every community is strong and able to shape its own destiny, and no one is held back by their background or circumstances. We help people gain confidence and skills, get into training and work, protect and improve green spaces, lead more active lives and overcome significant challenges such as poverty, isolation, low skills and poor health: www.groundwork.org.uk

About New to Nature

New to Nature offers new, full-time, temporary work placements in nature and landscape organisations across the UK, aiming to increase diversity and enrich the environmental sector.

Funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund as part of the celebrations to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the King’s Coronation, the programme will run until September 2024 and will provide paid work placements for at least 95 people, targeting young people from diverse backgrounds to undertake a range of environmental roles.

New to Nature is delivered through a partnership of Groundwork, The Prince’s Trust, Disability Rights UK, and Mission Diverse. We are working closely with the Youth Environmental Service to ensure the programme acts as a stepping stone for a longer-term journey of change in the sector: www.groundwork.org.uk/projects/new-to-nature/