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New Nature Skills Training to boost biodiversity action

Pilot course aimed at public sector staff and contractors working in sensitive environments, including building sites, to develop knowledge of nature and biodiversity conservation

Training will include ecology, environmental law, risk mitigation and best practice across a range of habitats

Pilot project is being led by Laois and Offaly Education and Training Board (LOETB), to be progressed to a certified training 

A new biodiversity pilot training programme for contractors working in environmentally sensitive areas was launched today (Wednesday 17th May) by Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD, Minister of State for the OPW, Patrick O’Donovan TD and SOLAS’ CEO Andrew Brownlee. 

The course, a collaboration between the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the OPW, LOETB and SOLAS, is being piloted. The training is to be progressed to a certified qualification with the view to a national rollout. The aim is to provide an opportunity for staff and contractors for the OPW, Local Authorities and other public sector bodies to learn how to protect and conserve nature in their day to day work. 

It will include practical ecological training on a range of different habitats, such as rivers, woodlands, lakes, hedgerows, peatlands and grasslands, as well as buildings and bridges, and offer guidance on key elements of environmental and wildlife law, risk mitigation and best practice.

Welcoming the initiative, Minister Noonan said:

“If we want everyone to roll up their sleeves and help tackle the biodiversity crisis, we have to give them the knowledge and training to do so. This innovative programme is doing just that by supporting operatives working in some of the most sensitive, important places for nature and giving them the skills they need to protect it. It’s fantastic to see the pilot Nature Skills Training taking shape, and I’m grateful to colleagues across Government for their support and engagement.”

Minister O’Donovan said:

“The Office of Public Works is committed to protecting biodiversity across its operations and ensuring staff and contractors have up-to-date training on best practice is an important element of that. The Nature Skills Training is a positive, practical opportunity to embed this across the organisation and support the achievement of key goals in the OPW Biodiversity Action Plan.”

Minister Harris said:

“I’m delighted that my Department is supporting this valuable initiative through its partners in SOLAS and the Laois-Offaly ETB. Professional skills training like this has the potential to affect widespread change across multiple sectors, and I welcome the opportunity to deliver this in support of the protection of nature. It’s vital that we work together to equip people with the skills they need to respond to the crisis.”

Minister O’Brien said:

“The staff and contractors working for public bodies play an important role in relation to the protection and conservation of nature, and I’d like to encourage Local Authorities in particular to engage with this new training programme as it develops. The more we know, the better able we are to ensure that we make the right decisions for the environment.”

SOLAS CEO, Andrew Brownlee said:


“This innovative training pilot will play a crucial role in providing more people across the country with the right skills to contribute to the transition to a greener economy. SOLAS is delighted to support this collaborative effort led by our partners at Laois Offaly ETB and we remain deeply committed to expanding the national green skills provision across the FET sector. Our pledge is to give every FET learner the green skills and sustainability awareness to allow them to serve as agents of change on climate action.”



Notes to Editor:

About the Nature Skills Training pilot

This 1-day pilot course has been created for contractors and managers working in both state agencies and local authorities. The course aims to raise awareness in nature protection and biodiversity conservation amongst staff who are tasked with the development of public tenders and procurement processes for works on sensitive environments, including building sites. 

Course participants from the OPW and Laois and Offaly local authorities will be provided with training in ecology, environmental law, risk mitigation and best practice across a range of habitats on the day.

This is a collaborative initiative, developed jointly by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the OPW, LOETB and SOLAS, the national authority for Further Education & Training.


SOLAS, the Further Education and Training Authority, a statutory agency under the aegis of the Department of Education and Skills, was established in October 2013. Its role and functions are set out in the Further Education and Training Act, 2013. SOLAS is responsible for funding, coordinating and providing strategic direction to the Further Education and Training sector in Ireland. For more information, please visit Follow SOLAS on Twitter: @solasfet. 

About Laois and Offaly Education and Training Board 

Laois and Offaly Education and Training Board (LOETB) is the statutory provider of education and training services in Laois and Offaly in the Irish midlands.  Across the country 16 ETB’s act as statutory educational authorities which have a responsibility for education, training and youth work and engagement. They manage and operate second level schools, Further Education and Training Centres, pilot community national schools and offer a range of bespoke upskilling and reskilling further education and training provision that responds to national and regional, as well as industry, skills gaps.