Spotlight on jobs and apprenticeships in National Parks

10 Feb 2021

As we mark National Apprenticeships Week 2021, Countryside Jobs Service (CJS) Features Editor Amy Worley explores plans to create new jobs and apprenticeships in National Parks and other landscapes... 

Trainees working outdoors with Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust

One thing that the Covid-19 crisis has proved to everyone, including policy makers, is the essential part green spaces, access to nature and National Parks play in our wellbeing. In an ideal world this would translate into increased funding, but with more demands than ever on the public purse we, as a sector, need to investigate other avenues of income. 

National Park Authorities have limited resources which make it challenging to deliver work on the ground. Meanwhile, charities working in National Parks rely very heavily on charitable donations but it will never be enough to employ the army of workers that are needed. For all the great work that grant-funding delivers, it rarely aids with recruitment.  

Investment needed into green jobs

The reliance on volunteers is a well-known, well-debated fact of countryside management. Whenever we share an article about volunteering people express their opinion on the matter – there are those who advocate volunteering as an excellent way to gain experience and make inroads in to a career in the sector. On the flip side there are also those who have volunteered for years, with no progression in to paid employment, who see it as a way for organisations to obtain free labour. The debate will rumble on and, while it does, we need to try to increase the investment in green jobs and paid apprenticeships, so that more of the people willing to use their skills in nature conservation can earn a decent living. 

There are some apprenticeships available in environmental and countryside management work but nowhere near enough. One of the best programmes is with Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT), which this week announced the launch of a new government-backed qualification will see countryside rangers achieving the equivalent to a foundation degree through on-the-job training.  YDMT works with partners, businesses and colleges to place and train young people who live in the area to get a job and stay in the area. This should be an avenue available in all National Parks. 

Apprenticeships not just for school leavers

Focus should not only be on young people though. There have always been people wanting to change career and work outdoors in nature – with huge pandemic-related job losses, we’re seeing more of this now. They bring with them many useful transferable skills and, with the addition of some training and experience, make excellent employees. Any investment made by the government and obtained through private means needs also to support this important intake of potential employees. 

Back in November Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced thousands of new jobs were to be created and retained as part of the Ten Point Plan to drive UK’s green ambitions. “The plan will mobilise £12 billion of government investment to create and support up to 250,000 highly-skilled green jobs in the UK,” he said, “and spur over three times as much private sector investment by 2030.” 

Predictably, the largest proportion of these jobs will be in renewable energy, green transport and green living but there is a place for jobs in nature and countryside conservation, so there is a genuine hope of more funding.  

National Nature Service proposals

Wildlife and Countryside Link (WCL) is spearheading the idea of a National Nature Service (NNS), which gives real hope for job creation. The NNS would provide funding to organisations already working in this area, inc. National Park Authorities and NGOs, supporting tens of thousands of new jobs in nature and conservation and giving people professional and transferable skills training and employment outcomes. 

It’s a big ambition, but one which could help address the issues – the rising unemployment and the need to protect nature. 

If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself unemployed during the pandemic, use your time well to improve your chances of securing that job in the future. You could volunteer from home with local wildlife charities; work on your CV – perhaps upload it to the CJS website; or find your next role on the CJS jobs pages.  

Photo: Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust