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Striving to Deliver Opportunities within the Environmental Industry

The Field Studies Council (FSC) is a charity established in 1943 to bring environmental educational to all. The organisation runs 17 field centres around the United Kingdom delivering a range of environmental educational courses to students and learners across the age spectrum. We also run several community initiatives aimed at reaching those not normally able to participate in environmental education, as well as a ground breaking volunteer project that works with biological recorders to increase their skills and provide the next generation of experts in groups of fauna and flora.

At the heart of our programme are a range of professional development courses for volunteers, students, professional ecologists and land managers. Many of these are in partnership with universities or recording societies and provide accreditation to those wishing to make an environmental subject their career, or for those continuing their development within the industry.

Two areas in particular have become campaigning grounds for our organisation in recent years. Firstly the lack of fieldwork within the curriculum, with the obvious loss of field skills amongst children in education, with its inevitable follow on impact on our industry as a whole by the separation of the population from nature itself. Then the lack of knowledge concerning taxonomy that many students have, again impacting upon our species knowledge and therefore management knowledge. This is particularly dangerous for the future of our wildlife – as how are we to manage and conserve what we have if we cannot identify what we have in the first place?

Working with the Heritage Lottery Fund, the FSC has developed a Biodiversity Training Project to work with volunteers in the Shropshire and wider West Midlands area – as a pilot project – over a five year period to increase field and identification skills through progressive field training. We are currently half way through this programme of courses but already have successes with several regular volunteers recording high quality biological records and submitting them to the relevant recording schemes locally and nationally. We even have one volunteer who is now about to become a tutor for the first time during 2009, which is particularly exciting. Ultimately these biological records will end up on the NBN Gateway (see Special Edition of CJS weekly – 18 August 2008) and influence planning and management policy.

So we are seeing this two-fold approach develop within professional development; the more traditional educational approach through top quality associations with schools, universities and recording societies, as well as less recognised, but equally valuable, ways of development with funded schemes such as the Biodiversity Training Project where the training that many universities and other educational bodies do not have the time or expertise to provide is being supplied to volunteers and others to plug this skills gap. It is likely that the future of professional development lies this way with alternative opportunities arising along the way and we at the FSC are striving hard to deliver these opportunities to those who wish to thrive within the environmental industry.

If you want to know more about what we do please visit www.field-studies-council.org and if you want to know more about the Biodiversity Training Project please visit www.field-studies-council.org/biodiversity

Updated information January 2017:

FSC continues to run a range of Biodiversity projects and provides relevant courses, useful resources and publications.  Visit http://www.field-studies-council.org/biodiversity for details.

First published in CJS Focus on Environmental Education in association with The Field Studies Council on 24 November 2008