After graduating during the pandemic, Thea, 24, was struggling to find stable work based around her passion for nature conservation. Through New to Nature, Thea is now the Horticultural Assistant at Groundwork Northern Ireland, and has hopes to continue expanding her environmental career around the world.

Whilst working as a bartender, Thea came across the role at Groundwork and felt drawn to apply, as she aligns strongly with Groundwork’s passion for connecting urban communities to green spaces. She felt that the role could provide her with structure and benefit her mental health in ways her bartending job did not.  

As a horticultural assistant, Thea works at a variety of sites, including allotments, community gardens and schools, to help develop and maintain their green spaces, which are often in their formative stages. At these sites, Thea also gets to facilitate events, including volunteer days. Through the role, she’s gaining skills in community engagement, whilst also developing knowledge and experience in developing green spaces from start to finish. Getting to spend time outdoors and in nature has also improved both Thea’s physical and mental health and motivated her to continue progressing in the sector.  

In the future, Thea hopes to use the practical conservation skills and qualifications she’s gained during her placement to work in conservation. She has ambitions to work abroad in the nature sector in order to experience new environments and gain more skills. The New to Nature programme has given Thea hope that this can become a reality and she now feels more confident at her chances of prospering in this competitive sector. 

Thea said:  

“The environmental sector is extremely competitive, especially conservation focused jobs in NGOs. The sector in Northern Ireland is incredibly small and by proxy, seemingly, exclusive, making it difficult to break into. There is also a general lack of green jobs especially at entry or even graduate level.  

“A lot of conservation or green NGO jobs that are seemingly entry level look for copious hours of volunteering, combined with formal qualifications, which a lot of young people that would be applying for these jobs may not have the capacity to gain, as volunteering can interrupt working hours and so for the many, lots of volunteering is not a realistic expectation. 

“There is a clear need for green workers but there are just no opportunities. Programmes like New to Nature benefit both the organisations and the individual. 

A career built on my passion for nature and conserving our planet is something I would be very lucky to do. The New to Nature placement is the first step in this journey, having graduated two years ago and feeling the negative effects of the pandemic. This opportunity has given me the motivation to continue with my career.

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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