WildSkills: Reflections at traineeship half way point

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TCV’s WildSkills trainees are half way through their exciting, career-boosting traineeship and already they’ve made huge progress in their learning and confidence.

The traineeship is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and all trainees are incredibly grateful that they’ve been given this opportunity through TCV.

So far, we’ve read all about the trainees who are based in Yorkshire and London, including their reasons for applying, their environmental interests, and hobbies such as skateboarding and house plant collecting!

They’ve shared activities they’ve completed and new skills developed. We’ve seen photos of species they’ve been learning to identify and been impressed and entertained with their own paintings and sketches.

TCV WildSkills Traineeship experience so far

At this half way point, we hear from the trainees to share their thoughts on their experience so far, as well as a couple of interesting updates on tasks.

TCV’s WildSkills trainees also recently joined in Volunteers Week where they talked about their tasks with volunteers on TCV Hollybush’s livestream ‘Close to Nature’.

See each of their videos below to get an insight into where they work, tasks like tree maintenance and balsam bashing, their favourite wildflowers and butterflies, and how they run events with corporate volunteers and the public.

Kayley, TCV Hull & Humber

TCV’s WildSkills traineeship has given me insight and developed my knowledge on biodiversity of mixed habitat flora and fauna. My tree ID skills and knowledge has tremendously improved over the course of the traineeship starting!

I developed my influential capabilities such as doing self directed videos, taking over the Hull office social media and bringing ideas to the table to reach more members of the community.

The traineeship has developed my leadership qualities so I was able and competent to lead and direct Catzero Humber volunteers doing tree maintenance in Hull.

The traineeship has given me insight and reassurance to some degree in letting me realise I’m in a sector I find most rewarding.

It has also gave me confidence so much so I’ve now climbed the career ladder and have started my permanent role of the Tree and Woodland Creation Project Officer based in Hull.

As Kayley moves into her new role, we’ll no longer be featuring her updates on the WildSkills blog series but her personal blog is a great read to learn about conservation and life at TCV!

Most recently she writes about some lovely wildlife sightings she’s made and the importance of tree maintenance.

Jozef Szklaruk, TCV London

TCV WildSkills is the best thing that has happened to me. All the staff are really nice and supportive and push me to learn. I feel really lucky to have so many experts coming in to give us training.

We recently had Dr Mark Spencer give us a walk talk on plant ecology. He covered a variety of wild flower and trees. He taught us about things like the cool spiral shaped pea pods of the Spotted Medick to the Ash Tree dieback crisis with its poor management processes that has lead to the spread of the disease.

One thing that I really enjoyed was learning about the different types of common grasses London has.

We had another really great talk walk from Dr Steve Brooks who is an expert on Dragonfly and Damselfly.

We learnt all about their interesting mating displays and habits, and were lucky enough to see Emperor Dragonfly mate. We even saw a new species to the ecology park!

The Black Tailed Skimmer male actually has the same pigment as the female – the blue on the male’s tail is in fact a fatty coating that can be rubbed off, like a plum’s fuzz.

I can’t thank TCV enough for this opportunity. I have so much fun and I’m looking forward to seeing what kinds of jobs there are out there, as I will soon be qualified enough to think about applying for one!

Kate Pullen, TCV London

With the summer coming, we have focused more on plant, bird and invertebrate ID on our traineeship, having sessions with botanist Mark Spencer and odonata specialist Steve Brooks.

The public have been allowed to return to the park and we are preparing to start pond dipping sessions at Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park over the summer, so I have been getting to grips with water invertebrate identification.

The Dragonflies and Damselflies have been emerging from the lake in the past month and it is interesting to watch them leave their skins and be able to identify differences between species.

Damselfly larva
Dragonfly larva
Newly emerged Dragonfly

I have enjoyed the experience that comes with increase in public interaction, particularly the MIND group I have helped to run because I understand the need for people to have regular meetups and activities for their mental health.

I am also looking forward to doing more on that front including an upcoming BAME walk. As a black person coming into the ecology field, I feel that it is important to be visible and for other people from BAME backgrounds to feel that they can access nature and partake in it too.

Kate joins Elliot’s video shown below.

Elliott Miller, TCV London

I’ve loved every minute of the TCV traineeship.

Learning about protecting bats, butterflies and bramble has given me the on the ground experience of local urban conservation, to inform my  interest in national landscape regeneration in the future. 

Receiving delivery of 8 standard native trees for a corporate group in July
Partaking in a pottery class with Stave Hill clay put on by Chelsea art students 
Our very first post-Covid Employee Action Day, clearing reeds, building a fence and planting new pond plants

Rebecca Kinsella, TCV Skelton Grange & Leeds

The WildSkills traineeship has helped me in so many ways. Not only has it opened the door into a career that I love, its also helped me grow in confidence.

Before the traineeship, the idea of leading groups on my own seemed really daunting and not very doable. Now I’m completely comfortable leading groups and take great pride in doing it! I’ve really surprised myself with that!

The traineeship has helped me build skills and meet people who share my passions. I feel so grateful for this opportunity because I’m sure it has set me up for a career I love!

Eva, TCV York & North Yorkshire

Over the last 5 months I have gained lots of practical experience in meadows, woodlands and wetlands. I am now gaining confidence, taking on more of a lead role in running task days regularly.

I have really enjoyed getting to work in different areas of TCV to get a feel for what I enjoy doing the most and explore my options. Working with the York mid-week team on bigger conservation projects, the Hull Road Park group on a community-based project and even working with children visiting Skelton Grange has been great.

The traineeship is already giving me many important skills for my future career in conservation.

A few words from TCV…

Hearing directly from the trainees gives a real insight into the life of a WildSkills trainee and prospcts for a career in the enviroment sector. It’s also great to get the perspective from TCV Senior Project Officer, Joe Beale, who praises the trainees and their progress.

“This is the first job I’ve had where I don’t have that feeling of dread on Sunday evening about Monday morning.”

“I want to continue with this line of work!”

These heart-felt quotes from our TCV south London cohort of WildSkills trainees really put a smile on my face – all the hard work is worth it!

At the halfway stage of the WildSkills year, I have seen how the three London trainees – Kate, Jozef and Elliott – have thrived and are learning and developing all the time.

The busy programme has been challenging, particularly early in the year when Covid-19 restrictions limited our options. The trainees have a full and varied programme of site visits, training courses, guest speakers, wildlife identification and recording workshops.

We have been learning from experts and trainers from a wide range of sectors, for example: the Field Studies Council, Natural History Museum and Froglife, as well as botany experts, site managers, green roof experts, and local Friends and conservation groups.

Dr Mark Spencer botany walk, Plumstead

They have also been busy with day-to-day practical work experience helping to manage their three base sites: Stave Hill, Dulwich Upper Wood and Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park. There has also been the challenge and opportunity of working with the public, corporate and community groups – such as Mind and Camberwell College of Arts.

All three have adapted brilliantly. They have gained confidence, gained professional and practical skills and knowledge and worked closely with the site managers (who have all been very engaged and supportive of the trainees), volunteers and TCV staff. Feedback from the trainees has been consistently positive.

Steve Brooks Dragonfly walk at GPEP June 2021
Steve Brooks Dragonfly walk at GPEP

The trainees have all grown in capability and put in a great deal of effort.  As Senior Project Officer in the south for the WildSkills programme, I am very proud of how well they have handled all the many aspects of this role and how they have become an enthusiastic part of the TCV Urban Ecology team.

Thanks are due to players of the People’s Postcode Lottery because it has given these three young and talented people the life-changing opportunity to develop the experience and skills they need – and to contribute to nature conservation and the community.

Thanks again to players of People’s Postcode Lottery for your support. Keep following the series for more updates on the impact of your funding!

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