Increasing employability through conservation volunteering

A conservation volunteering project hosted by the Trust and funded by Erasmus+ has led to positive destinations for the young people who took part. This project was designed to boost the employability of young people by offering year-long voluntary placements carrying out a variety of outdoor practical placements on our wildlife reserves. The volunteers also benefited from the cultural experience of living in Scotland.

Volunteers at Rahoy Hills Wildlife Reserve © Michelle Henley

We recruited 15 volunteers from Spain and France who wanted to learn about nature conservation and gain practical skills. Half of the volunteers were female and their average age was 25. 60% of these young people were unemployed before the project.

The volunteers spent their placements working closely Trust staff and completed dozens of different tasks on 47 of our wildlife reserves. The practical work they carried out included:

  • reserve maintenance (such as repairing bridges, paths and boardwalks)
  • species/habitat protection (such as control of natural regeneration on peat bogs, cutting and raking of wildflower meadows, control of non-native invasive species)
  • surveys and monitoring (including grazing assessments, deer counts and species monitoring)

The volunteers contributed an fantastic total of 11,276 hours to the management of our reserves and were an essential part of our workforce, helping to maintain valuable habitats across our reserves including peat bogs, semi-natural woodlands and species rich grasslands.

Beth Harwood using a bat detector  © Michelle Henley

Some of our volunteers also carried out personal projects: Beth Harwood conducted a bat survey on two of our Highland reserves through sound analysis and found two species of bat in areas where they had not been recorded before. The exciting findings from her survey were presented at the Scottish Bat Workers Conference in November 2019.

Volunteers went on longer residential trips to our more remote reserves in the Highlands including Handa Island. Three volunteers spent several weeks on Eigg working with the local ranger.

Increased skills and knowledge

Our volunteers self-assessed their skills at the start and the end of their placements and this showed a measurable increase in their abilities, including practical skills, knowledge of habitats and managing wildlife reserves.

Many of the volunteers told us they felt more employable after the project. Of those who responded to a post placement follow up survey, 100% had a positive outcome. Two had secured employment, including one person who was employed by the Trust soon after her placement ended. The rest of the volunteers were taking part in further study or volunteering related to conservation.

We thank Erasmus+ for funding this successful programme and we look forward to the next opportunity to run another project with their support.

Peter Gilbert

Volunteer Development Officer

The Trust’s Enhancing Employability for Young Nature Conservationists project was a European Voluntary Service project supported by Erasmus+.

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A conservation volunteering project hosted by the Trust and funded by Erasmus+ has led to positive destinations for the young people who took part. This project was designed to boost …

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