Wild Paths Traineeships 2021

Wild Paths 2021

Wild Paths: Helping people into conservation careers

**NOTE**  Applications closed with effect 6th June 2021. 

All applicants for the 2021 cohort will be notified individually of the outcome of the sifting process as soon as we are in a position to do so.

Our sifting process will commence in the week commencing 14th June 2021, and is expected to be completed by the end of the week.  Applicants can expect to hear the outcome of their submission by individual email in the following week.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) Skills for the Future (SFF) Programme has provided millions of pounds of funding to organisations that provide work-based training placements to meet a skills shortage in the heritage sector and help diversify the workforce.

This year the programme sees Avon, Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire Trusts teaming up to give people the chance to apply for ten-month long training placements in practical conservation and engagement skills. The partnership will offer people from diverse backgrounds a chance to access entry into a career in the natural heritage sector, by offering a comprehensive work-based training plan and a bursary of £1000 per month, to pay for rent, bills, food etc whilst they are in training. Wild Paths was launched in 2018 and aims to deliver 30 placements across three years.


Who is Wild Paths for?

The Wild Paths Training Programme is designed to enable participants to gain a broad range of hands-on experience that will give them the skills and confidence to make a valuable contribution to the conservation of the natural heritage, and to communicate with, inspire and enthuse others about our natural heritage.  It is ideal for someone who is looking for a career working outdoors with wildlife and people, but candidates do not need to have any prior formal training in this sector.  Candidates will however, need to demonstrate a genuine desire to work in natural heritage conservation.  Candidate need to be over 18, but there is no upper age limit.   All traineeships involve considerable manual work at times, often in difficult weather conditions on sites that are not easily accessible.  An enthusiasm for getting stuck in, learning from the mentors and having a never give up attitude are definite requirements for these roles!

This scheme is now OPEN to new applicants for placements starting in September 2021.  

The Wildlife Trusts are keen to reflect the diversity of the British community within our workforce and applications from under-represented groups, for example people from Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) background or people with disabilities are particularly welcome to apply.  We also use an anonymous sifting process to remove as much unconscious bias as possible.   

Download more information on how to apply for a training placement below.

What placements are on offer?

 There are Practical and Engagement placements on offer across the South West;  Dorset (one in west Dorset and one in east Dorset), Somerset (one near Taunton and one at Cheddar), Wiltshire (one near Oaksey and one near Salisbury), Devon (two placements) and Avon (two placements)

Candidates are invited to apply via a single process for up to a maximum of two placements, (we will ask for priorities).  Details of each placement can be found by clicking the links below.

All placements start on 1st September and last for 10 months, with an expectation that trainees attend an average 32 hours training time per week.  Trainees will receive a bursary of £1000 per month, to pay for rent, bills, food etc whilst they are in training.

Placement description - Avon 2021

Placement description - Devon 2021

Placement Description - East Dorset 2021

Placement Description - West Dorset 2021

Placement Description - North Somerset 2021

Placement Description - South Somerset 2021

Placement Description - North Wiltshire 2021

Placement Description - South Wiltshire 2021

How do I apply?


Applications submitted after 6th June 2021 will not be considered for the programme.


It is recommended that candidates carefully read the notes below, and the individual placement descriptions, before completing our straightforward two-step application process as follows:

Step 1: Download and fill in our simple application form and/or if you are feeling more adventurous or just hate forms, send us your application in a different format that you feel best reflects you and your motivation for applying. It could be a PowerPoint or Prezi presentation, a link to a webpage, a YouTube video (or similar) or whatever other means you wish - it must however tell us a bit about yourself, why you want to work in the conservation sector and what barriers are currently preventing you from achieving this. 

Step 2: We also need EVERYONE to fill in our short information form so that we have all your contact details, know which placement(s) you want to apply for and some additional background data about you to help us monitor the efficacy of our recruitment process. 

Then just send the information form AND either the application form or alternative info to recruitment@dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk or by post to Colleen Smith-Moore, Wild Paths Project Co-ordinator c/o Dorset Wildlife Trust, Brooklands Farm, Forston, DT2 7AA.  Your submission will be acknowledged  by reply email.

If you have any questions about the scheme prior to applying or any difficulty with opening the forms, either email Colleen at csmith-moore@dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk  or give her a call on 01305 264620. 



Find out what a day in the life of a trainee is like

More information and contact details

For further information on Wild Paths training programmes, please contact the Wild Paths Project Co-ordinator Colleen Smith-Moore on 01305 264620 or email csmith-moore@dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk Twitter: @Wild_Paths

The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Want to find out about our previous training scheme Wildlife Skills?

From 2014-17, the Wildlife Skills Training for a Career in Nature Conservation programme funded through the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) Skills for the Future delivered 57 training placements in a range of conservation skills for people from diverse backgrounds across 4 Wildlife Trusts in the South West of England; Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire.  Forty-seven (82%) highly trained individuals are now employed in the sector, with the other 10 in further training, or expected to gain employment very soon. You can see a report on the download below.

Case studies

There are so many personal stories from the programme about how trainees’ lives have been changed.  Below are some statements from trainees and case studies of 4 former trainees.

“Without this traineeship I wouldn’t be working in conservation, I owe my career to this scheme.  I had gotten to the point where I had decided this was my last try of getting into the sector and that I would redirect if it didn’t work out, luckily I didn’t have to do that” - PC trainee, now working for WT

“Before I had my traineeship, all I had to write in the ‘Relevant Qualifications’ box on job application forms was my degree and a first aid course.  When a Person Specification asked for a long list of ‘tickets’ it decreased my chances of success before I even started.  Now the list is rather more substantial! Have finally got my dream job and it’s all thanks to that amazing year in Somerset” – PC trainee, now working for RSPB

“Thanks also to the Heritage Lottery Fund, without whom my traineeship would not have been possible. Their funding brings so many projects to life within wildlife conservation; in my case, their funding empowered me to leave a profession that my heart was no longer in and begin dedicating my working life to my love for the natural world” – CE trainee, now working for local authority as community ranger

You can read more about our Wildlife Skills trainees on the download below.


Want to find out about our previous training scheme DWT Conservation Skills?

The Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) Conservation Skills Programme funded through Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Skills for the Future provided opportunities for 31 individuals to become trained in the skills and knowledge required to pursue a career in practical nature conservation, and to reinforce the practical nature conservation workforce in Dorset.  87% of trainees (27 individuals) gained employment in the sector within 1 year, and 18 of these continue to work within Dorset. 

This scheme is now closed to new applicants, but a similar programme called Wild Paths is available from 2018 to 2021 across five of the South West Wildlife Trusts.

Identifying the skills gap

It was important that the project didn't simply provide a great opportunity for a lucky few to have an enjoyable year of training.  Of prime importance was addressing any skills gaps within the conservation sector.  Notably, it had become only too clear that although there were always plenty of applications for practical jobs at Dorset Wildlife Trust, often there would be very few that had the relevant heritage skills and experience to be successful.  It was there that the initial focus was placed.  A programme was therefore established that would lead to a trainee completing their year with a full set of qualifications and experience such that they would be in a position to fill the gaps identified in the rural skills sector, with little or no further training needs.

Selection of trainees

With the traineeship providing all the qualifications and skills required for a promising future in the sector, it was accepted that there should be no formal educational or qualification entry requirements.  The main consideration when selecting individuals was their enthusiasm, their commitment and to some extent, their personal qualities.  These qualities are not something that can be easily built in one year, but are essential in gaining employment in the future.  Whilst there were formal interview sessions involved in the selection process, perhaps the best source of information on each candidate came from feedback from mentors leading group activities or even through discussion during breaks/lunch.   Selected trainees worked within one of 4 teams, and it was important that the teams had a significant part to play in selecting 'their' trainee as it built confidence and strong ties from the very start of the traineeship.  

The training year

Training was delivered through a variety of means. Formal qualifications such as Chainsaw, Brushcutter etc were gained through courses run by Dorset Training Group.  First, aid, Health & safety, Forest Schools and other such qualifications were gained through other external training providers.  These qualifications were then consolidated by work carried out within the relevant teams across Dorset Wildlife Trust.

In-house training provided the opportunity to learn from the wealth of experience offered by staff. Built in to these activities were the common themes or working methods such as risk assessments, training plans, meeting delivery targets and engagement activities.  As part of personal development training, the focus was on soft skills such as empathy, assertiveness, interview techniques and low-level coaching.

Trainees were able to work and train together several times per month, to confirm and build their working relationships as a team.  Such training was often built into an identification and survey workshop, with trainees gaining valuable experience in a wide variety of species.  The trainee team days proved to be particularly valuable as the year progressed, as each felt able to support and assist other trainees as the need arose.

Trainees were encouraged to share their experiences on a number of social media platforms, and the Dorset Wildlife Trust Trainees blog is well worth a read for some excellent examples of the training successes over the course of the 4 year project.

The results!

Several trainees were able to progress directly into employment within the conservation sector before completing their full traineeship year.  This resulted in the opportunity to create shorter length traineeships, thereby providing further development for individuals that had already gained some qualifications/skills.  As a result, the Dorset Wildlife Trust Skills for the Future programme has been able to train a total of 31 individuals over the course of the 4 years.

We have maintained contact with all our trainees, continuing to offer support and guidance as well as keeping up with the latest news in the various careers.  Success of the programme can be easily measured through employment within the conservation skills sector.  Currently sitting at around 90%, our trainees are highly employable!  Comments from prospective employers has reinforced this view:

"It is refreshing to read an application from someone who not only meets our skills criteria, but also has gained valuable experience and consolidation of such skills"

Case studies

Nikki Hesketh Roberts was one of the 2012 trainees. She had previously spent a number of years in an office environment but wanted to pursue a career in conservation. After volunteering with the Dorset Wildlife Trust she made the decision to apply for a traineeship position with the Urban & East Dorset team, based at the Urban Widlife Centre. 

 “During my year as a trainee I enjoyed working in the countryside, seeing lots of different habitats and species and developing my identification skills” 

 “I also liked putting the chainsaw and brushcutter training into practice, working with volunteers and corporate groups and giving talks and guided walks”

 “The Skills for the Future programme  provided training and opportunities for me that I otherwise would not have been able to access”

After succesfully completing her traineeship, Nikki was quickly able to gain employment in the sector as a Countryside Ranger.  She has since moved into an ecologist role, and is firmly established in her new career.

Jess Tilley was one of the 2011 trainees, and was working as an office temp when she got the call to confirm that she had been accepted as one of the first trainees of the new programme.  She threw herself into her training year with huge amounts of enthusiasm and a smile that never left her face!


Cohort 1 (Megan, Jess, Becky, John)

"I absolutely loved my training year, and learnt so much from everyone"

"I thought I was stuck in a career of office work, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to get away from that into my dream job of being a Ranger"

"It's such a great feeling to know that I'm able to play my part in ensuring that our rural heritage is not lost" 

Jess initially worked as a self employed conservation contractor, before progressing into wardening roles in East Dorset.  She worked as a Ranger, based at the Moors Valley Country Park near Verwod, but returned to DWT in 2017 as a Conservation Officer responsible for grassland restoration on Portland.