New to Nature: Young People Thriving in Conservation

Adam supporting a Princes Trust Get Started in Conservation Course at RSPB Sandwell Valley Credit: Sam Turley ( 

RSPB’s Anna Langridge shares the importance of opportunities for young people and giving them a helping hand to thrive in the environmental sector. 

At a time where we see huge numbers of young people taking action for nature it can still be difficult to break into the environmental sector, with few early career opportunities for young people to learn and thrive in. However, over the last year and a half we have been working with Groundwork UK, alongside 82 other organisations, to change this through the New to Nature scheme, which aims to provide life-changing experiences for people who might otherwise struggle to access a career in the environmental sector.  

New to Nature scheme 

The RSPB joined the New to Nature scheme in late 2022. Young people from an ethnic minority background, disabled or from low-income homes were encouraged to apply for paid roles in all areas of the nature sector. We wanted to help give young people a kickstart in the environmental sector and empower them with new skills. It was a competitive application but amazingly we were able to secure four funded placements, including two in England.  Adam joined us as a Community and Visitor Engagement Assistant at RSPB Sandwell Valley, and Ruben, as an Assistant Warden at RSPB Coombes and Consall Woods 

Each trainee was supported by a Groundwork employment coach, had access to a peer network, development programme and training budget, in addition to extensive support and mentoring through their colleagues at RSPB Sandwell Valley and Coombes and Consall Woods. 

Ruben shares his experience: 

“I applied for the New to Nature, Assistant Warden’s role at Coombes Valley because living my life in a city this gave me a unique opportunity to be able to move to the countryside, live on a nature reserve, all whilst working in conservation. 

I had never heard of Pied Flycatchers until I applied for the role, nor had I seen species like Redstart, Goshawk and Barn Owl. My list of ‘lifers’ on-site and at other RSPB sites grew day-by-day. On a trip to RSPB Reserves Nagshead and Highnam, I got to see Nightingale, Wood Warbler, Firecrest and Tree Pipit for the first time too! 

I have developed skills, received training, and gained qualifications during my time here at RSPB Coombes Valley. This includes Chainsaw training, ATV (all terrain vehicle) training, Red Cross First Aid Training, GIS Training and more. I hope to be able to continue working in conservation, preferably with the RSPB. Perhaps this could be in a role similar to Assistant Warden or Estate Worker going forward. If such a scheme continues, I’d encourage anyone who is interested to apply as it is a brilliant way to get into an otherwise challenging sector to get a foothold in.” 

A staggering 100% of New to Nature trainees, across all organisations, said they gained new experiences and skills to help with their future careers through the programme, and 94% of trainees were keen to stay in the environmental sector beyond their placement, highlighting the importance of empowering them to venture further into conservation.  

Ruben at RSPB Coombes Valley and Consall Wood Credit: Rob Atkinson 

Still more to do 

Whilst the outcomes from the New to Nature scheme have been brilliant to see, there is still much more to do. At the beginning of their placements, over half of the New to Nature trainees believed that careers in the environmental sector are inaccessible to those from ethnically diverse and/or working class backgrounds. This perception and the opportunities available need to transform. Nature needs everyone to save it and we need to foster a love and connection to the natural world in everyone to protect it for generations to come. 

Young people are the future – they bring new ideas, different perspectives and fresh enthusiasm. The impact both Adam and Ruben have had during their placements at the RSPB have been incredible, we can’t thank them enough, and we can’t wait to welcome more young people to help save nature. 

You can find more information about working at the RSPB and current vacancies here. Find out more about the Groundwork New to Nature scheme here. 


New to Nature is made possible with The National Lottery Heritage Fund, with thanks to National Lottery players