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Cumbria Wildlife apprentices are flying high one year on

Trudy Harrison, MP for Copeland with Siân Bentley at the Beached Art festival at St Bees in July.

[B]oosting Cumbria’s rare butterflies, lobbying local MPs on Brexit and keeping a close eye on the North West’s only grey seal colony is all in a day’s work for two young apprentices working for Cumbria Wildlife Trust.

Siân Bentley and Isaac Johnston, two Apprentice Conservation Officers, recently celebrated a year of working at the wildlife charity, which is based near Kendal. Siân says: “It’s been an incredible year! I wouldn’t have thought that at my age (20) I’d be running events which were attended by hundreds of people, but I did that at Beached Art in St Bees back in July.  I’ve also been interviewed on the radio about the dangers of beach litter and done a TV feature about natural flood management, and am really enjoying engaging with MPs about the EU Withdrawal Bill.”

Isaac Johnston and Siân Bentley set up a stall to meet the public in Kendal town centre, encouraging people to write to their MPs about the EU Withdrawal Bill.

Isaac says he always knew that university wasn’t for him but he didn’t want to do a narrow apprenticeship, learning just a few skills.

He says: “This is the most diverse education you could get: among the many practical skills I’ve gained are using a brush-cutter – a sort of heavy-duty strimmer – to clear undergrowth in the woods on our nature reserves. This allows the sun to reach the wildflowers on the ground, which in turn helps populations of rare butterflies such as the Scotch argus. I’ve done this with incredibly hard-working volunteers from all walks of life, great for building my team-work skills! I’ve also been trained in the latest hi-tech equipment and can now fly a drone above inaccessible areas of the county, to monitor and map important areas such as wetlands. It’s very rewarding work and a nice balance of being outside in the field and desk time.”

The rare Scotch argus butterfly, one of the species that Isaac has helped to protect this year.

Both young people, who are now half way through their two-year apprenticeships, are motivated to continue working in this sector in the future. Siân plans to study environmental economics, policy and sustainable development and Isaac plans to work in land management and conservation.

The apprenticeships were made possible by the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT) Green Futures programme. Jo Boulter, Dales & Fells Trainer Scheme Coordinator at YDMT said: “Siân and Isaac seem to be relishing every opportunity to learn new skills and gain practical experiences through their apprenticeships at Cumbria Wildlife Trust. This fantastic work-based learning, combined with their college studies and a range of certified training courses, should mean that they are well placed to follow their dreams and lead successful careers in conservation, land management and the environmental sector.”

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