How to get a job that helps save the planet – Mel’s story
November 19, 2020
Melanie Shears is completing an Environmental Conservation apprenticeship through YDMT. Her placement is hosted by Cumbria Wildlife Trust, where she works as the Get Cumbria Buzzing Project Officer. She is also one of our Young Ambassadors.
We caught up with her to find out how the apprenticeship came about and her advice for people wanting to follow the same path.
Hi Melanie, what did you do before you looked at being an apprentice?
I did an English degree at first and then started a teacher training course. It didn’t really work for me, so I started working in retail. I have to be honest and say I didn’t have much direction in life, I was kind of going from one step to the next not really knowing what I was doing.
How did you end up working with YDMT?
I’d got a bit stuck in retail and was starting to get a little bit comfortable. It was a job, and I wasn’t milling about doing nothing. But deep down I knew I didn’t want to be comfortable – I wanted to have a purpose and feel like I was making a difference. I began to trawl the internet for any opportunity I could come across and I found the apprenticeship with YDMT. It just looked different – you could make a real difference and experience nature. It didn’t really sound like a job at all!
What has it been like?
Working with YDMT has made me feel like I was making a difference. I have learned so many different skills and had the opportunity to do some really amazing and varied things. I’ve been working with the events and campaigning side of things as well as going into schools to help educate young people about the importance of our environment. I’ve also had the opportunity to oversee the planning of one of Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s biggest events – their beach art day.
What other skills have you picked up?
I’ve been going out with the Rangers on to our nature reserves and learning loads of different techniques for reserve management and lots of ID skills for botanical and animal surveys. We do a lot of surveys throughout the year – from checking how red squirrel are doing to general vegetation surveys across our sites. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with loads of different organisations such as the National Trust, the Wildlife Trust and RSPB.
It sounds really good! What other benefits have you noticed?
It has really helped me in terms of my personal well-being and being able to be outside and connect with nature. It is so beneficial for mental and physical health. It has been such an amazing experience that I wouldn’t change for the world.
Would you recommend an apprenticeship to someone looking at a different path into the environmental sector?
I definitely think apprenticeship schemes have developed a lot over time. I’m 24 and doing an apprenticeship … I think I probably would have been considered a little bit older than most people who go on to do an apprenticeship. In the past you were probably straight from school or signing on – but this has given me a real opportunity to retrain and make sure I can go on to have a really fulfilling career.
Apprenticeships are about more than just the qualification; it is about personal development and gaining really beneficial skills instead of just doing something for the sake of doing it. I would really recommend it!