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“The course at Ambios proved I could achieve the career I’d longed for – it provided the skills I needed to access jobs and confirmed I loved the reality of conservation work too.”

Before I found Ambios, I had spent a long time looking for ways to break into the conservation sector.  It wasn’t easy because I hadn’t studied the subject at university but I wanted to find a course that offered the practical skills as well as background knowledge I’d need to start applying for conservation jobs.

I had been volunteering on nature reserves whilst working in a supermarket for about 6 months and was desperate to find a way to start my career.  Just as Covid hit, I found the 12 week residential course with Ambios which seemed to tick all the boxes.  I jumped at the chance, travelled to Devon and spent three months of the first lockdown on the course.

Part of the value of the Ambios course was finding out if I really did want to do the practical side of conservation.  We spent our days doing fencing, repairing and installing gates, learning traditional woodworking as well as general farm tasks and gardening.  This was combined with formal learning which helped me learn about plants and animal species, surveying and identification and understanding habitats.

It really is a unique mix of theoretical and practical education and then there’s the expertise of your co-workers and teachers which is priceless.  Visiting lecturers were helpful for networking and getting to know people already working in the sector.  We got an inside view about the realities of the industry which meant we could speak with authority at job interviews too.  

Communal living was another revelation – I worried a bit at the start as I’m not the most outgoing person – but I really enjoyed it.  We all had individual spaces but the shared kitchen and living room really helped me settle in and feel as if I was part of a team.  The jobs rota gave us a shared purpose and was a great icebreaker too.  There was definitely the opportunity to be social if you wanted to but privacy – and acres of beautiful countryside – for solitude when needed.

The 12 week residential course at Ambios was such a good all round experience and really set me on the road to my future career.  Since then I’ve done an apprenticeship at Dorset County Council as a Countryside Ranger before becoming Countryside Warden at Derbyshire County Council.  If I hadn’t done the course, I don’t think I would have been selected for either job – I think I would still be volunteering and living at home.  Instead, I feel I’m already on the way to a great career.

Ellie Schenk 

Countryside Warden, Derbyshire

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