Building a career in the National Trust

Working at a National Trust property can involve a variety of skills. And, as Caitlin Davies discovers, you might be asked to move in too
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The Independent Online

Would you like to look after a castle? Would you know what to do if a precious painting showed signs of wear and tear, or how to deal with excitable visitors on a Bank Holiday weekend? If the answer is "yes", the National Trust could be the employer you are looking for, especially if you are interested in conservation.

Take the recently advertised post of assistant house steward at Florence Court in Ulster, for example. The job requires someone who can help with the day-to-day care of both the mansion and its valuable historic contents. You would need to develop a thorough knowledge of the property, be prepared to work at weekends and public holidays, and have a head for heights. A major bonus is that you would live on site, in an apartment.

The National Trust cares for 250,000 hectares of countryside in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This means 700 miles of coastline, as well as 200 buildings and gardens - including 19 castles, 47 industrial monuments, 49 churches and 35 pubs. The charity employs a staff of 4,300, in charge of everything from samurai armour, to a collection of lawnmowers and the Oscar awarded to George Bernard Shaw.

Conservation aside, the trust has jobs available in five main areas: business administration, customer services, financial services, human resources and legal services, policy and strategy. It has its own jobs site (www.ntjobs. org.uk), which gives a flavour of the range on offer. They include: senior property lawyer on £37,000-£43,000, office assistant at Sissinghurst Castle Garden on £11,355; and a river maintenance person in the South-east on £10,500. However, if it's seasonal work you're after, you won't find much at the moment. The busiest period is March-October, when jobs include visitor-reception assistants, chefs, and plant sales assistants.

"I've always been interested in conservation, and I always wanted to work for a charity," explains Louise Hayes, 29, a graduate in English and the charity's communications administrator. "I sent a letter off to the National Trust asking whether there were any jobs, and here I am. The team that I work with is great, and I feel I'm doing something for the environment, even if it's only in a small way."

Hayes' job involves a variety of tasks: helping journalists who want pictures to accompany features, researching articles for the National Trust Magazine, and fielding queries from people who want to know, for example, the best snowdrop walks in England.

Stuart Greenwood, meanwhile, works in the Trust's licensing and brand-development department. Now 24, he graduated last year in financial services, went off travelling and returned to Britain where he signed up with a recruitment agency. The agency placed him at the National Trust, and he is licensing account manager at the head office in Swindon.

Greenwood works with the 22 licensees who produce products sporting the National Trust logo. Boots the chemist, for example, makes a range of outdoor products such as wind-up radios and hip flasks that are sold both in National Trust shops and on the high street. Licensees pay the Trust royalties on all sales.

The National Trust ensures that licensed products are made from environmentally friendly materials, that (in some cases) they are guaranteed for life, and that the craftwork is traditional and UK-based. Some lines are inspired by Trust houses, so they need to be authentic and true to their source. One firm, for example, produces replica decorative plasterwork; another offers a range of greenhouses and conservatories.

To begin with, Greenwood's job was purely financial; he collected the money and looked after the licensees. But now his role has become more varied, and he has greater responsibility. He is involved in contract negotiations and insigning up new licensees, as well as with research into and approval of new products.

"Even though my parents are both members of the National Trust, I was unaware at first what the Trust was actually about," he says. "Now I really appreciate its work. What I do provides support to maintain Trust properties."

Last year, 50 million people visited National Trust open-air properties, and, if you worked for the charity, you could join them, as staff, and their children, enjoy free admission and a 20-per -cent discount at National Trust shops.

And that's not all - you also get a 50 per cent discount on the Trust's holiday cottages. A perk indeed.

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