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Environmental conservation

Environmental conservation is the conservation of landscapes, habitats and species alongside the management of public access, and includes:

  • Rural and urban conservation
  • Countryside recreation
  • Rivers, coasts and waterways
  • Heritage conservation
  • Urban regeneration
  • Environmental management

The industry also covers associated landscape management skills, at policy, planning and technical levels, together with the maintenance of rivers and waterways. Large organisations make up part of this industry, such as Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage, BTCV, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the National Trust, the National Trust for Scotland, National Parks Authorities, Wildlife Trusts and the Woodland Trust. Environmentalists provide advice and guidance to farmers, land managers and undertake impact assessments on potential industry and building developments.

Key statistics:

  • There are 23,000 people working in the industry, in approximately 3,250 businesses.
  • There are around 200,000 volunteers working in the industry.
  • 73% of businesses employ less than 10 staff, 22% employ between 10-49 staff and 5% employ 50 or more staff.
  • 60% of the workforce is male.
  • 97% of the workforce is white.
  • 49% of the workforce is 25-40 years and 24% is 50 years or more.
  • 84% of the workforce is employed full-time.
  • 90% of the workforce has a level 2 or above qualification.

Jobs in the industry include: access and recreation officer, estate manager, volunteer coordinator, ranger, countryside officer, waste management officer, conservation officer, biodiversity officer, ecologist, environmental management officer

Entry requirements for this industry vary depending on the job role. Some jobs require no formal qualifications. However, relevant qualifications and experience can be an advantage, especially for higher paid job roles. Technical/specialist roles may require specific qualifications and/or experience, but some employers may invest in training a suitable individual. Volunteering or taking seasonal/temporary work can improve employment opportunities. There are good opportunities for those wishing to change career.

Drivers of change in employment are:

  • Climate change – Businesses within environmental conservation are well-placed and have appropriate expertise to help address climate change.
  • Rural and urban regeneration – Legislation, such as the Countryside and Rights Of Way Act 2000, has improved accessibility to the countryside, which in turn impacts on land management skills.
  • Labour supply – There is a lack of appropriately skilled staff in the industry and the industry is finding it increasingly difficult to attract suitable staff in some areas.
  • Economic change – The current economic climate may have a negative impact upon the availability of consultancy work in and around environmental conservation organisations. The potential future reductions in public sector money through central government cutbacks will require businesses to generate external funding. The shift of emphasis in agricultural practice from food production with no environmental damage and towards food production with environmental enhancements presents an opportunity to broaden the influence of conservation.
  • Health and safety – Given the size of the industry, including the activity of volunteers, there are problems in managing, standardising and enforcing health and safety policies and practices.
  • Globalisation – This affects the daily performance of businesses through changes in global economic and social conditions (such as oil prices and carbon footprints).

Recently, the industry has undergone significant changes, which has lead to an increasing demand for high skill staff. There are also requirements for a mix of conservation, generic and specialist skills, plus a high demand for relevant practical experience. Skills that are becoming increasingly important are:

  • Conservation skills, including practical estate skills, environmental/habitat management, surveying and species identification skills
  • Project management, financial and budget management skills
  • Supervision and management skills
  • Technical/job specific skills, such as operation of machinery, wider land-based industry knowledge
  • Essential skills, such as literacy, numeracy, basic ICT, communications, interpersonal, and customer relations skills

Senior conservation officers also require skills in: policy, planning and legislation; wildlife and conservation impact awareness; and negotiation, staff management and leadership.

The most common skill gaps are for: field interpretation and species identification skills; heritage management; chain-saw training; first aid refresher courses; minibus driving; and trailer towing.

National and regional data:

  • Scotland – There are an estimated 2,800 employees in the regional workforce, in around 400 businesses.
  • South East – There are an estimated 2,550 employees in the regional workforce, in around 350 businesses.
  • London – There are an estimated 2,400 employees in the regional workforce, in around 350 businesses.
  • Wales – There are an estimated 2,050 employees in the regional workforce, in around 150 businesses.
  • North West – There are an estimated 2,100 employees in the regional workforce, in around 300 businesses.
  • West Midlands – There are an estimated 1,950 employees in the regional workforce, in around 300 businesses.
  • East of England – There are an estimated 1,650 employees in the regional workforce, in around 250 businesses.
  • Yorkshire and the Humber – There are an estimated 1,450 employees in the regional workforce, in around 200 businesses.
  • South West – There are an estimated 1,250 employees in the regional workforce, in around 400businesses.
  • East Midlands – There are an estimated 1,250 employees in the regional workforce, in 200 around businesses.
  • Northern Ireland – There are an estimated 1,000 employees in the regional workforce, in around 150 businesses.
  • North East – There are an estimated 900 employees in the regional workforce, in around 150 businesses.

Pay scales in this industry are variable, so the following only provides an indication of the average annual salary paid to some full-time positions:

  • Natural Environment and Conservation Managers £40,845
  • Conservation and Environmental Management Officers £29,035
  • Countryside and Park Rangers £22,180

Further information on salaries can be found on the Defra website.

Source: Lantra AACS LMI report 2010