Volunteering, Skills and Training

National context
The Natural Environment White Paper (2011)
`Volunteering is one of the most fulfilling ways to experience the natural world. It can also help people develop new skills, solve local problems and develop a sense of local ownership and responsibility. This country already has a strong culture of conservation volunteering, and volunteers play a vital role in helping to monitor and maintain our environment.’

Volunteers donate time and skills by carrying out a wide variety of environmental projects: wildlife surveys and ecological monitoring, practical nature conservation and access management work, leading and organising learning and participation programmes.
Environmental volunteering has multiple benefits for the natural environment, individuals, communities and the economy.  It provides many benefits to both mental and physical health: by increasing self-confidence, combating social isolation and helping people to stay physically healthy through activity. Communities benefit by people working together creating a sense of ownership and responsibility for local wildlife and green spaces. The increased skills and experience gained from volunteering can enhance employability and career prospects of participants.   As well as ecological skills and experience, volunteering gives people the opportunity to practice important skills used in the workplace, such as teamwork, communication, problem solving, project planning and management.   The natural environment sector also provides training placements apprenticeships and training schemes, many of which lead to recognised accredited vocational qualifications.

In the Tees Valley

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In the Tees Valley there are many opportunities for volunteering: with environmental organisations, local authority projects, wildlife societies  and community led green space groups. The TVNP is developing a Wild Green Spaces project that will improve the natural environment skills base through local volunteer groups, provide opportunities for training in biodiversity identification and recording and nature conservation management and enable young people to gain work based experience potentially leading to nationally recognised qualifications.

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Employee volunteering, where staff at all levels donate time and skills during work hours to tackle local social issues, is an effective and powerful way for businesses to invest in their people and local communities. Northumbrian Water Limited has a highly successful employee volunteering programme called Just an Hour. This is a structured programme of involvement in the community designed to impact on education, the environment and the general well being of the community. Since its launch in 2012, Northumbrian Water employees have committed over 70,600 hours in support of local communities. Projects in the Tees Valley included helping to create a shale island using cockle shells at Portrack Marsh – to  provide nesting sites for ground nesting wading birds, helping the Boro Becks Project with their Big Beck Clean-Up and installing a board walk and screen at RSPB Saltholme.

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