How the AFON mentoring scheme can help young conservationists


Guest blog by Emily Seccombe. Emily is the Mentoring Officer for ‘A Focus on Nature’ (AFON), the UK's youth nature network. They are a voluntary organisation led by young people. They aim to connect, support and inspire young people with an interest in nature and conservation; working with other environmental organisations to provide a voice for the youth conservation movement. 


Conservation isn’t a typical career path. There aren’t many graduate schemes and there isn’t much career guidance on how to get into the sector. Advice can be hard to find unless you know someone personally who has worked in nature conservation. University careers fairs can often be completely devoid of any environmental organisations and careers advisors may not have specific knowledge of the sector. However, the number of trainee schemes, apprenticeships and internships is increasing, providing that first step from volunteering into a paid role. But it’s still hard. These schemes are often short term, geographically limited and low-paid.

This is where A Focus on Nature's Mentoring Scheme comes in 

 It’s open to anyone aged 18-30 who has an interest in nature and conservation and wants advice. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what your background is, or how much experience you have – it’s as inclusive as we can make it.

AFON Committee past and present

So how does it work? 

We have a fantastic range of mentors, all successful professionals, who volunteer their time to support young people. If you are aged 18-30, you can apply to the scheme and we pair you up with a suitable mentor to provide advice and guidance. All mentees receive a mentoring booklet to guide them through the scheme, which also contains top tips from across our board of mentors. Mentors and mentees work together and discuss how the mentee can be supported to achieve their goals. To get involved, please check out our webpage, where you will find the mentoring scheme guidelines and a mentee application forms:

Why do we run a mentoring scheme? 

We want to provide a leg-up in a competitive sector to those who are really keen, and overcome the lack of formal careers development. We hope to tackle the isolation that can be felt by young people hoping to get into the sector. The scheme also enables the transition of skills and knowledge, and will hopefully increase the age diversity within conservation organisations. Through the scheme, we hope to support and inspire more young people with the dedication and passion for conservation.

So who are the mentors? 

From authors to rangers to educators, all our fantastic mentors have great experience in the wildlife sector. They recognise how hard it is to get into the sector and want to support young naturalists and conservationists. Our mentors work for some of the leading conservation organisations in the UK including the National Trust, RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, as well as successful freelancers. They’re pretty busy people, so here at AFON, we are always grateful for their time!

We are always looking to increase the diversity of our mentoring panel. Specifically, we are currently looking for new mentors who are mid-career, as well as for women working in conservation science. We also hope to work with black, Asian or minority ethnic conservationists. We hope through this we will make the mentoring scheme more reflective of the young people we hope to support.

What do mentees and mentors make of the scheme? 
I had a fantastic phone call with Patrick Barkham who offered me fantastic advice, and helped me narrow down my general enquiries into more specific ones. He's very approachable and offered up help in the future as well. Clive Chatters has also offered helpful advice in the form of lengthy emails, he supplied me with contact details of people within certain organisations that have led onto further opportunities.” – quote from a mentee

The AFON mentor scheme provides opportunities that I wish had been available to me when I was starting out in my conservation career. As a mentor it is also very rewarding as you are not only sharing the experience, but learning from the inspiring young people who you are paired with too.” - quote from mentor Catriona Corfield

Want to get involed?

Check out are website and if you have any questions, please get in touch with Emily at

AFON's Now for Nature Conference

-Guest blog by Emily Seccombe, A Focus on Nature.