Apprentice Jade reflects on experience

April 28, 2020

You may remember reading about Jade, our rural apprentice who had been working with Cumbria Wildlife Trust as a conservation officer since September 2018.

She was one of the 2,516 young people we worked with in 2019.

We’re pleased to report that she has recently been given a Level 3 apprenticeship with the National Trust.

The role centres on river restoration and natural flood management in the Derwent catchment and is based at Keswick.

Below, she reflects on a frantic 16 months with YDMT.

“Looking back to who I was at the start of this apprenticeship is quite remarkable. Two years ago, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do or was passionate about. I cared about nature and wildlife, but I’d never taken the time to immerse myself in it. I’d been so busy with school and then getting a job which saw me working 50-hour weeks in hospitality.

“This apprenticeship gave me the opportunity to learn about the natural world, about myself as a person and what I cared about. I have made some amazing friends and have had some of the most incredible ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunities I could never have dreamed possible.

“One of my biggest achievements was getting my chainsaw ticket in crosscutting and felling small trees. On day one of the course I was faced with dismantling, maintaining, and putting back together a chainsaw, a really scary intimidating machine I had never come close to before. I survived … and on day two I had to fell and dismantle a tree. Not a chance…!

“I got the tree on to the ground but when I went to cut it off at the stump I hit a problem; my side case had come undone and my guide bar was on the floor several feet away. I called for help and my instructor came over. He quickly realised what had happened, saw the tears welling up in my eyes and gave me a hug. Everything was fine, my side casing simply hadn’t been quite tightened up enough, but in that moment, I was so shaken up and so full of self-doubt I didn’t think I could pick it up again.

“I did though, and five days later I had passed my assessment with flying colours. Though this was definitely in part thanks to my wonderful instructors, a lot of it was my determination and refusal to be beaten by my nerves and anxiety. For me this has been one of my biggest takeaways – even when things are big, scary and seem very much impossible, if you care enough, try your best and refuse to let your own self-doubt get in the way, you’re going to succeed.

“It’s not just big things like that I’ve learnt – there are the little things that can be so easily overlooked. Not so long ago I didn’t know what a chaffinch looked like or what an earth sphagnum moss was. Now, I love to spend my time watching the wildlife around me, being able to know what they’re called and where they’ve come from. I can now confidently go to a peatbog and ID most of the plant species surrounding me. It’s small things like this I often disregard, and sometimes completely forget about, when I’m low in confidence and doubting my abilities.

“None of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for my apprenticeship. Without it there’s a very good chance I would still be stuck in a job I didn’t want to be in, working all hours under the sun and not feeling fulfilled.

“I found school hard. I tried hard and got good grades but was never an over-achiever who stood out and got extra attention or praise. Equally, as I never needed extra help to get my grades up, I was not given the added guidance some students get. I didn’t want to go to university after completing my A levels too. I’d seemed to have had nothing but bad luck throughout school and I was fed up of the education system. As many schools are so focused on results and university acceptance letters, I felt a little lost. Now I am exceeding my own expectations and enjoying work for the first time.

“I’ve definitely had my ups and downs throughout this apprenticeship and there have been periods when I found it hard. At times, it was hard to work alongside such a close group of colleagues and moments when I didn’t feel like I was achieving as much as I should have. I had doubts as to what I was going to do at the end of my apprenticeship, if I’d have any hopes of finding a job or if I’d spend the rest of my life in short-term contracts with little progression or security.

“I made it through the wobbles, kept working and made it out the other side, stronger and happier for it. I always knew that Jo and the team at YDMT were always there if I needed help, advice, or even just a chat.

“I am so grateful for the opportunities YDMT provide for young adults like myself. I believe everyone should be given a chance not just those at either end of the academic spectrum. For many apprenticeship schemes I would have been disregarded as a candidate as my grades and age would have discounted me.

“YDMT find people who really care about the natural world and give them a chance. If they think they can help you then they will try their hardest to help you progress.”