Auli Elolahti, student of environmental change and policy, served as a trainee at the Finnish Nature League during the spring and summer of 2017. Elolahti’s traineeship was unusual in several ways. She managed to create a traineeship placement that interested her by taking initiative and using the networks she had created during her extensive experience in NGOs.

Two years ago, Auli Elolahti represented the Finnish Nature League at the annual meeting of Youth and Environment Europe. At the event, she realised that the now defunct Finnish Environmental Action Days event could be revitalised, organised by the Finnish Nature League and made international. The Finnish Nature League approved her suggestion and made Elolahti the coordinator of the project. At the same time, she managed to create a traineeship placement for herself.

During the traineeship months, Elolahti’s duties consisted of producing the International Environmental Action Days, booking speakers and drafting the programme. Her work was independent and involved significant responsibility, as the project was set in motion by Elolahti herself. A part-time contract is best suited for event organising, so the two-month traineeship was scheduled to be spread over six months.

Elolahti believes that her studies in environmental science had given her a solid foundation for working at the Finnish Nature League, even though they did not directly relate to her duties. In general, she would like university studies to be more practical.

– Project courses arranged in cooperation with various organisations have been particularly useful, muses Elolahti.

She says that her traineeship improved her practical skills in particular. She has also gained a clearer understanding of what kind of work she enjoys.

– Communication duties and working with people seem to come naturally, even though my background is in the natural sciences.

Her traineeship has redirected Elolahti’s interests towards environmental communication and education. She is writing her Master’s thesis on environmental themes in cooperation with the WWF.

– Volunteer, take project courses and take initiative, is Elolahti’s message for any prospective students of environmental studies.

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Trainees re-energise the workplace

Malva Green, the environmental education manager at the Finnish Nature League who supervised Elolahti’s traineeship, says that trainees are an important part of the work community.

– Often students bring enthusiasm and joy into the workplace. They have the kind of motivation that rubs off on older employees.

Green says trainees are a significant resource for work, even though their supervision takes time and energy. The Finnish Nature League tries to give trainees an appropriate amount of responsibility and a clearly defined set of tasks to complete.

The Finnish Nature League warmly welcomes university students as trainees. Trainees at the organisation can come from many different academic fields, as their employees also range from social scientists to biologists. It is also possible to write Master’s and other theses or dissertations in cooperation with the Finnish Nature League.

– You can apply for a traineeship or to write a thesis with us by just sending an email to a Nature League employee, says Green.

Auli Elolahti’s message to the employers of trainees is that trainees can take on real responsibility and they shouldn’t be relegated to being office assistants.

– Trainees should be included in idea sessions, because students have new and refreshing ideas which can help develop the organisation or business.