Half a year's trainee highlights

Jake reflects on the first six months of his traineeship...

The first six months of my traineeship have flown by; it’s something I have mixed feelings about. On the one hand, I’m closer to being able to put everything I’ve learnt into my first paid position and starting my career in conservation (hopefully). On the other hand, I only have six months left of this incredible experience, working with great people.

Something I don’t do enough is reflect on the knowledge and experience I’ve gained in this amount of time. I’m the sort of person who once they’ve learnt something new focuses their energy on the next topic. It’s the reason I decided to do this blog, so that I can really look back at the amount I’ve learnt and enjoyed.

Before I talk about the highlights of the traineeship so far I want to talk about the type of jobs you should expect to do on a regular basis because they make up such a big part of your learning experience.

Jake standing by a newly installed interpretation sign alongside a woodland ride

Maintenance

This is a HUGE part of the traineeship and includes fencing, repairs on signs/fence posts, waymarker fitting, gate replacements and repairs, boardwalk repairs and bench fitting. These are just a few examples we need to do on our nature reserves. This is psychical work that I must admit took a couple of weeks for my body to get used to – even now, after certain jobs, I will wake up the next day aching in places I didn’t know I could ache!

I love these jobs probably more than I care to admit but there’s something extremely satisfying about putting in a new fence, for example, and knowing it’s been done right so will be there for the next 15 years.

Admin

Admin is something that took a couple of months to iron out but I’ve actually thoroughly enjoyed. I thought I may struggle with this type of work but the interesting projects we have worked on have kept this issue to a minimum. Myself and Amy have been collating and analysing bird survey data (collected by our colleague Steve Bloomfield) for Lower Smite Farm dating back to 1994.

I am also writing up a level two management plan, which I’ve found has really tested me in terms of putting my knowledge of the site and the management needed into a written plan. One of my favourite things about doing this is the different perspective it’s given me on the reserve.

These have been just two of my favourite projects but there are so many other opportunities I could name and, to be honest, project work could have a blog all to itself.

A pile of brash alongside mud and a coppiced stump

Training

To date I have completed my first aid in the workplace certificate and my chainsaw ticket. Issy did a great job of talking about the chainsaw course in her blog so I wont go into too much detail other than to say that I found it a lot harder than I was expecting. Future training could include trailer licence, tree surveying and brushcutter training.

Other

The six months of the traineeship have varied a lot and I think has given me invaluable experience for the future. For example: retrieving dormice nest boxes to relocate, tree surveys, gathering soil samples, goat herding and helping to build up Smite's new garden pond, which will look great when it’s finished.

Two people handling a fence post on the ground with fencing leading to the foreground

Highlights

Because my first six months have been so great, I think its hard to pick a few things as highlights! A big one for me is being a part of the trainee team. You never know how it’s going to work out when you start a new role with complete strangers, and I think I kind of had it in the back of my mind that I might not get on with at least one of them (considering how different people can be) but it’s been a pleasure working with them all and we're a proper team!

Another highlight for me is passing my chainsaw assessment. It’s something I have thought about even before I was a trainee, which meant I put a lot of pressure on myself to pass. It’s probably the best thing the chainsaw course has taught me (other than how to use a chainsaw, of course): to have a little faith in myself.

Thirdly, a highlight I’m lucky enough to get most days as a trainee, being outside in nature with the birds calling and singing is something I really enjoy and it makes me really appreciate being a trainee here.

The next six months

I hope I’ve done six months as a trainee justice, it’s not easy to compact six months’ worth of an experience where each day is different down into a blog! Of course, everyone’s experience will be different but I know I’ve learnt so much already and I can’t wait to see what the next six months has instore for me.

 

Jake Goodwin is studying towards a degree in Environmental Science whilst undertaking his one year trainee placement with the Trust. Having already volunteered for Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, he's keen to learn more about managing habitats for wildlife.