Kerri Wheale: Assistant Ranger apprentice on Countryside Worker apprenticeship level 2
Kerri applied for the Countryside Worker apprenticeship to become an Assistant Ranger apprentice after volunteering with us through our Green Academies Project (GAP) at Clent Hills. The GAP programme enabled young people to look after the green spaces where they live - empowering them to understand the challenges faced by the environment, recognising the important role nature plays in all of our lives, and being part of the future of nature conservation, so it was great to see this leading into an apprenticeship role for Kerri.
Why did you first choose to apply for an apprenticeship?
Originally, I had no intention to apply for an apprenticeship. After I had finished college, I looked for a job, but nothing really seemed like something I wanted to pursue. After a year on the Green Academies Project there was an opportunity to become an apprentice with the Wildlife Trust. I thought this could be a step forward and a chance to finally start working and earning my own wage, so I applied. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the role but I was a first reserve and the Green Academies Project was going on for another year so I could study for my Level 2 in environmental conservation. I decided to stay within my comfort zone and stay on for Level 2 even though I had no clue if I wanted to be a conservationist, I just knew I liked the outdoors and the college course was fun and practical instead of paperwork and sat in a room in a college all day. So when the National Trust apprenticeship was advertised I decided to go for it.
Best thing about the apprenticeship?
I can’t really say what the best thing about the apprenticeship, since I haven’t really had the full experience. But I can say that the opportunities to travel really appeal to me because I never get to travel much. We had the opportunity to go to Stonehenge for the summer solstice earlier this year to help with a festival. We would have been up there at around six in the morning watching the sun rise, maybe a bit early for some but I was so excited for it. Unfortunately I was unable to go due to lockdown, but I just know that there will be more opportunities to travel and that’s what really appeals to me.
It has been difficult getting the full apprenticeship experience with COVID-19 around. I started work and was really excited for the out of town opportunities, but after two weeks we went into lockdown. I only went back into work at the very end of October, so I missed out on a lot of experience. Trying to achieve my Level 2 in Maths alongside my apprenticeship has also been a challenge. I was never very good at Maths at school, but I feel I am slowly improving and hope to pass this time.
Have you done anything that you didn’t expect whilst on your apprenticeship?
Because of my experience studying environmental conservation for 2 years, I found that the structure was sort of the same. There was some paperwork involved of course but there was also a lot of practical experience as well. If I had just gone for the apprenticeship without learning my Level 1 and 2 then the structure would have surprised me. It’s more focused on practical work and the experience you gain from that rather than learning just about conservation theory with no practical experience. I once met someone that had studied conservation at college. They knew all about conservation, but they had no idea how to apply that when working outside because they had never had the experience. I was shocked that you could teach conservation without doing practical work. If that had been my situation, and had I then applied for the apprenticeship, I think I would have really struggled.
How has the training provider/college supported you?
The college has supported me well. I understand that with COVID-19 it’s difficult to deliver all the lessons and work online. And having to support so many students, all doing lessons online it must be a real struggle. But I am thankful that they have still been able to support me and teach me new things about conservation. Honestly, I thought I knew a lot after 2 years of study but there is so much more to learn. The day to day support from the National Trust has also enabled me to move forward with my Maths studies which I never thought I would pass. Not only that but helping me back into work after so long without any practical work has been a great help.
What are your plans for the future?
I’ve never really been one to plan too far ahead. When I was younger, thinking of what I wanted to do in the future, I had no idea. At the time I was worried that everyone seemed to know what they wanted to be when they grew up, but I had no clue. Even when I left college after a short course, I thought what next? I was lucky to find the Green Academies Project not too long after college but even whilst I was on that course the same question entered my mind again, what are my plans for the future? Luck struck again though and an apprenticeship with the National Trust became an option. I thought I should at least try and go for it. I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I’d been working and volunteering in conservation for almost 2 years at that point. I was so excited when I got the apprenticeship because I’d never had a job before, so it was my first experience at work. And although I have missed out on some amazing opportunities because of the coronavirus pandemic, I believe there will be more to come before my apprenticeship comes to an end. So what are my plans for the future? Honestly, who knows? One year I could be a conservationist and the next becoming a writer. All I know is I will be thankful for any opportunity that comes my way.
Any advice for anyone thinking of doing an apprenticeship?
I’d say go for it! You never know if you will ever get another opportunity like it. And I think it’s a real learning curve for when you go into a full-time job. They can teach you a lot about getting a job when you’re at school, but I think it’s best to experience it for yourself. An apprenticeship is like dipping your toe in the water to see if it’s warm, you’re not sure if to dive right in or not. Some people would go straight for a job, but in an apprenticeship, you could learn and experience an entirely new skill or even build on something you’re already good at.