Volunteer Management Trainees: where are they now?

Former Volunteer Management Trainee Jess Wharf with volunteers

We caught up with Jess Wharf, former Volunteer Management Trainee at Hardcastle Craggs and Marston Moor to find out what she's up to now. 

Originally from Northumberland, Jess completed a degree in Countryside Management before becoming a trainee. Now she's the Volunteer Development coordinator at Dean Castle Country Park.

'When I graduated from university I didn’t intend to specialise in Volunteer Management. But the fact the National Trust have given me this niche is really helpful , as it’s a growing area and it means that straight away I have an advantage by already having experience. I don’t think I would have got this job if I hadn’t done the traineeship.

'Hardcastle Craggs was my first full time job in the countryside industry so it really gave me a better idea of how it all works. I loved it, even though there are definitely bits I probably moaned about at the time. It was a lovely place to work and the volunteers, I missed them so much after I left. When I started a new job where there wasn’t any volunteers and I had to build it up from nothing, I felt a bit like ‘what do I do all day?’. That whole process of the volunteer journey at the National Trust has been really helpful in my new job, because I had to set up the volunteer policy here when I started; design  the whole process, applications, induction, everything. 

'Looking back at my time as a trainee one of the things I am most proud of was setting up the Ranger Team Leaders. A part time volunteer role I started because I’m very aware in the countryside industry there is this real gap between finishing your degree and being able to get into a paid job. You need a more serious, long term volunteer position but you reduce the type of people who can access that industry if you only offer full time. So I created a position two days per week. It worked out very well and one of those volunteers is now the Assistant Ranger at Hardcastle Craggs and Marston Moor. He got that job after volunteering.

Jess Wharf with volunteers at Hardcastle Craggs
Jess Wharf with volunteers at Hardcastle Craggs
Jess Wharf with volunteers at Hardcastle Craggs

'In my current role its almost entirely younger people volunteering, coming from diverse backgrounds. It’s a very deprived area where Dean Castle Country Park is situated, and we are well placed for people on the urban fringe. The job is also part of a five year Heritage Lottery funded project, and is focused on building up a volunteer supporter base with the outdoor team here. 

'At the minute we are doing a series of hedge laying volunteer sessions. Hedge laying is not something that is done in this part of the world anymore, but it’s a very good management activity for wildlife. And also livestock control because we also have farm animals. There are some cool hedge laying videos on You Tube and some great footage of 1940s Land Girls. I got quite into it when I was training.'