Cornwall Apprenticeship: a short journey in time

Jasmine Dietz

A reflection on Jasmine's time as an apprentice with the Dynamic Dunescapes Cornwall team.

Two women stand in a gazebo and wave at the camera
What was your motivation to undertake the apprenticeship?

Leaving college, after studying Travel and Tourism, I was in a slight rut of what direction to take with myself, still in the midst of corona and working at my local Café. I’d had enough and I wanted more so I started looking for an apprenticeship. As a young person looking at the current situation of the environment, I wanted to be involved in helping, in any way possible. So seeing this Dune restoration project was very appealing.  As well as seeing the opportunities for helping the environment there was also a chance for me to build my skills within communication, IT skills and in general transferable skills for the future.

What went well?

Throughout my life I have done odd bits of volunteering with the Cinnamon Trust however when I joined the CWT team, I was able to experience a vast amount of different types of volunteering. For example, we have done lots of scrub cutting, allowing me gain skills with different tools and understand why scrub is bad for the dunes.  Have also done lots with Jon the ranger who looks after the MOD land , helping rebuild fences for the grazing animals we have on there. However throughout all of this my favourite part was the networking, I was able to meet so many new people and I loved hearing every one of their stories and why they ended up in conservation.

During my time on the project we were eventually given tasks that were more responsibility. I chose to take on helping with Care home outreach. I found a lot of peace within this, it gave me joy that our project could help this part of the community especially after the past 2 years. From the feedback we got all the care homes that we worked with seemed to love it.

This was another part that I loved, working with schools. Pip did an amazing job within using the art funding to connect it to work with schools. This was very fun to be able to talk to the younger generation as a relatively young person myself and express how we need their help. It also went very well in terms of the creativity, the Dunescapes team and the children loved it.

I am a sucker for some dancing so when this was being organised, I was over the moon. Being able to promote another small business in Cornwall who supplied us with food and drinks was also a pleasure. Using the beach cleans to attract people we were able to talk about the importance of Dunes as well as the beach itself.

When starting this apprenticeship, I was on a mission to gain some real-world skills that were transferable for my future, and that’s exactly what I got. Being able to watch over meetings, participate and just understand the routine for meetings was a massive win. Seeing how agendas are made, minutes taken etc. This helped because I now know how to confidently communicate on a call, set up a meeting and set an agenda.

What was less successful?

When I first joined this apprenticeship, this was just after the third or second lockdown, which meant engagement was relatively hard. People were worried to get covid, mix with people etc and this made it hard to attract people to our events. However, the star of the show, Andy, put in amazing amounts of work to get these events rolling.

Other than that I would say this apprenticeship has been one of the best things to happen to me.

What could be done differently?

The apprenticeship itself was an overall amazing experience for me however for next time an option could be to add another apprentice, throughout the year I felt that we could get through all the tasks efficiently and at a good pace. But having another team member could’ve helped us create different ideas and get tasks done quicker. When I first started this apprenticeship, I was told by CMN that there were a few free classes; project management, content and visibility and marketing strategies. Personally, I really wanted to do these but I wasn’t pushed, so I think maybe to improve the learning side of this, push the apprentices to take these free classes.

What are the key things that you have learnt (hard and soft skills)?

Coming into this apprenticeship I was very unskilled within office 365, however after a few lessons with my tutor and using it within my day-to-day life has helped me gain tones of confidence. When using outlook, I can now send/ receive emails, setting up meetings, adding a signature and much more.

At the start of the apprenticeship, I wanted to keep track of everything because we were so busy so quickly, so to ensure I didn’t forget anything I started a diary. This enabled me to practice my general written communication, although its still not perfect in any way, I have been able to improve.

Volunteering was a massive part of skills that I obtained. Before this apprenticeship I had never done scrub cutting, trimming down hedges to get to the fencing or even building a new fence for the cattle. Something that I noticed within volunteering was that I was surrounded by very strong independent women, this very inspirational. I was surrounded by women who wanted to get dirty, help wildlife in every way they can and support each other, this was a wonderful experience.

My communication skills were good before however I have only ever worked as a waitress and was able to be quite unformal when communicating. So, joining the team required lots of networking which I loved, however this gave me a chance to be confident but in a formal manner. During volunteering, events, and even in the office I was able to network, and this was favourite part. I also had an experience within cold calling and email communication, this was helpful within the dementia outreach in terms of getting a hold of the care homes, cold calling worked very well.

Throughout my life I have known I wanted to be in business, but I didn’t know what sector I belonged to. Throughout this apprenticeship I was able to help run the social media channels for the Dunescapes project, and this led me to the decision that I want to be involved with Marketing and social media. I could not thank everyone more for helping me find my calling in life.

What were the critical success factors for the apprenticeship?

The success factors for me varied a lot. I found that talking within meetings and coming up with ideas towards the project plan was a massive success point. It makes you feel valid and involved with the project much more. Something that also made me feel like the apprenticeship was going successful was me taking the lead with dementia outreach, I was able to create ideas on how we can use the reminiscence box, use the correct methods to contact them and organise to meet them. This was very successful in terms of the care homes using it and the residents enjoying something different. This was a very proud moment. The actual apprenticeship was a business level 3 apprenticeship, this means that you are learning the fundamentals of business from a manager’s perspective. Being taught in this way helped me understand the way employees should work together, finance and the general way an office works, so I would say that developing my knowledge within that sector is a success point.

What could be improved on for young people trying to get into the conservation sector?

When talking to younger people in conservation, a lot of them were in shock that I was doing all of this through an apprenticeship. This got me thinking, from most of the people I’ve spoken to them have gotten into the conservation world through a PhD, volunteering or connections. However, I think more young people would appreciate more paid placements, apprenticeships and paid work! Although I understand that funding is what most of the conservation world rely on, which makes it tricky. However, there is also the matter that people get into this type of work for the benefit of the environment which is very inspiring.

What new opportunities have arisen as a result of the apprenticeship?

When I left college, I had no plans to apply to University. However, throughout this year I have met lots of people who have done university, and expressed how great it was. I was also looking into marketing careers, and this required a degree, so apprenticeship showed me that I want to pursue marketing.  When leaving college I found that I didn’t have a lot of experience or references for the future, leaving the apprenticeship I now have 2 more references and bucket load of office experience which will help me massively in the future.

How do you think you will use your new skills?

From the skills that I have obtained throughout this year I will be able to pass this onto University and future employment. For university I will be more confident when asking for help, my IT skills, and the confidence I have been given.

What might be the lasting impact(s)/change?

Before this apprenticeship I was always very in love with nature and appreciative of it however I have never worked within conservation or volunteered. This meant knowledge was slightly green, however everyone was very polite in terms of teaching me about conservation, species on the dunes, and the general knowledge needed for conservation.

What are you particularly proud of achieving?

For one of the modules that I get taught, we are required to plan an event that supports our project. Our project is about rejuvenating the dunes, educating our community, and showing people ways to fall in love with the dunes. My head flashed back to covid and how people’s motivation was taken away and we weren’t allowed in nature, so I thought let’s plan a Yoga on the Dunes event.  I was able to plan this, find a yoga teacher myself, chose a site etc. I have also planned to do this event within World Sand Dune Day which is very exciting. I’m hoping that this will connect some locals to the dunes and allow people to see the beauty of mixing nature and working out.

What advice would you offer other young people?

Don’t be so hard on yourself, you have time to fail, learn and live. I was sick to the stomach to start this job and now I’m confident, have made some wonderful friends and created some beautiful memories.

Believe in everything you do- I wasn’t very knowledgeable within conservation which made me nervous but I came out fine!