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Conserving Scottish Wildlife
Start date: Sep 1, 2014, End date: Dec 31, 2015 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The Scottish Wildlife Trust owns or manages over 120 nature reserves in Scotland. These reserves are managed by a network of 6 regionally based Reserves Project Officers who, undertake all practical conservation work on these sites, keeping them well managed and great places for wildlife. Our project recruited 5 volunteers to work with 2 of these Reserves Project Officers, in South West Scotland and North East Scotland. Volunteers were recruited to undertake a range of outdoor practical conservation tasks on a number of nature reserves in each area (17 in North East Scotland & 14 in South West Scotland). By recruiting volunteers for 12 months, we offered the full range of work over the four seasons, thus exposing volunteers to the greatest variety of work on the greatest number of different sites. By so doing, our project was designed to assist young European volunteers to find work in the environment and we feel that our mixture of allowing volunteers to immerse themselves in the world of environmental conservation over a long term placement, combined with the input of our skilled and knowledgeable Reserves Project Officers and an informal and relaxed learning environment created a successful environment for learning new skills. 4 of our 5 volunteers already had university degrees and were looking for relevant experience to add to their academic background. The fifth was going to university after his placement. We chose our volunteers and then worked with their Sending Organisations. All our volunteers were from different countries and therefore we worked with 5 different organisations in 5 different countries. We ended up recruiting 2 females and 3 males of mixed ages and we mixed the volunteers amongst both project locations. One of our volunteers had ADD which, although mild did require management. During the project the volunteers undertook a collective 4,000+ hours of work on 31 of our nature reserves involving 45 different activities which included strimming footpaths, controlling non-native invasive weed species, cutting scrub, felling non native trees, footpath repair, maintaining fences, restoring peat bogs and many more. We offered a 30 hour week Monday to Thursday. All work was supervised by our Reserves Project Officers who also provided all health and safety. We provided all tools, equipment and work related transport. We conducted our own initial volunteers' self assessment of their motivations and skills and repeated this at the end of the placement. Our own questionnaires showed a marked improvement in terms of skills including use of English and a feeling that their own employment prospects were much improved. We also conducted our own exit feedback questionnaire with each volunteer which showed satisfaction with their placement and of their time in Scotland. 2 out of our five volunteers have already found relevant environmental work, a 3rd is studying at university whilst the remaining 2 are actively seeking environmental conservation work. Longer term, we feel that the volunteers have been positively affected by their experience with us. The experience has re-affirmed their desire to seek this type of career and they should be able to carry their Scottish experience with them during their future career. The Scottish Wildlife trust has gained valuable experience managing, coordinating and hosting its first EVS project and as a result is keen to repeat the experience. We have spread our experience of EVS through our magazine and networks and will continue to do so.
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