Sion's story

2 March 2023

Sion grew up in Swansea, South Wales, and went to a Welsh speaking primary and secondary school. Sion remembers having “a good upbringing” and having a deep natural love and passion for the environment and planet. Following leaving school, Sion went straight on to attend Cardiff University where he studied Environmental Geoscience and then to Swansea University where Sion achieved a Masters in Environmental Dynamics and Climate Change before he started looking for a job. Sion shares that after so many years within the education system, where the next step had been natural and methodical, he struggled with leaving university and searching for a job. “I was struggling quite a bit to find work in the environmental sector.”

I was struggling for work, so I was struggling with a sense of purpose at the time, and that was getting me down.

This was when Sion came across UpRising’s Cardiff Environmental Leadership Programme, during a search for opportunities on Google Jobs. Sion applied hoping the programme would build both his employability and his professional skills, and found the Social Action element of the programme specifically useful. “I always had an interest in activism and campaigning but I’d never really done much of it myself, and it was really good to be able to learn about how to bring around social change. I had to organise a campaign and then actually be able to take part in it, which was a really good experience”. 

An element of the UpRising experience which had a significant impact on Sion’s journey was the skills and opportunities it allowed him to develop his professional network. “The networking opportunities are brilliant, like it’s really cool to be in a room with a load of like-minded people in maybe not the exact same position but similar positions. You know, young people who are passionate about the environment and want to bring around change.” As well as being able to meet and connect with many other like minded young people, Sion too gained a lot from building connections and learning from the speakers and supporters of the programme, recalling “it was amazing to be able to be put in touch with these really high-level people in areas that I’d have liked to see myself going into and people I really looked up to.”

I had all this passion, I wanted to bring around change but I didn't really know how to do that.

During the programme, Sion also took part in UpRising’s mentoring programme and was paired with a mentor who was the Lead Policy and Advocacy Officer at the World Wildlife Fund’s Wales office, WWF Cymru. Sion recalls gaining a lot from the experience: “it was really cool to be able to be mentored by her and lean on her experience and learn from her”.

Sion threw himself into the programme, investing additional time in the different activities and opportunities UpRising offered, including volunteering to take part in a high-profile public speaking opportunities UpRising was supporting via the Office of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales. “I was lucky to be chosen to speak in front of the Welsh Government at the Welsh Government’s Low Carbon Launch in 2019… it was my first experience public speaking on a big stage like that so I was pretty nervous, but I felt like it went pretty well and it was probably one of the proudest moments of my life. It was amazing, and that afforded me many more opportunities off the back of that, so yes, that was brilliant.”

Public speaking is probably my biggest fear, and then after doing it, it was just amazing. There was the feedback I got and then the opportunities I got off the back of that. Yes, I was really, really proud of that.

Sion feels his time with UpRising helped him to significantly improve his confidence and approach to searching for jobs within the green sector, ultimately seeing him gain his first role with Natural Resources Wales as an Environmental Permitter by the time he’d graduated from the programme, 18 months after completing his Masters. “The course coordinator for Cardiff at the time [helped me] with my CV and cover letter towards the end of the programme. And then not long after that I was able to get a job in the environmental sector, so that was really, really positive, and I felt that help from the coordinator and the help with the skills, the different workshops we did really helped me in being able to finally get employment.”

Following completing his initial nine month contract with Natural Resouces Wales, Sion was then successful in gaining a second role with the organisation within the Waste Permitting team and then a year later secured a permanent full time position there. Having developed a wealth of professional experience working for NRW, Sion was approached on LinkedIn by a recruitment officer for the global environmental consulting company, WSP. Following a successful interview, Sion began a new role with the company as a Senior Consultant. 

The practical experience Sion gained from the UpRising programme gave him a safe space to learn how to campaign and develop his ideas into real world action. Alongside a group of peers, Sion had developed a campaign encouraging people to try plant-based cooking and eating: “we contacted cafés, restaurants, bloggers and people like that in the area, and asked them, to donate recipes to put into this free recipe book to support people to take part”. This built Sion’s confidence in expressing his ideas whilst also developing his experience and skills as a changemaker - a role that has been a significant part of his journey and identity since beginning the UpRising programme. 

It taught me where the power lies, how to tap into where the power lies to be able to amplify my voice or the voices of others or my cause most efficiently.

Alongside his formal role, Sion has continued to lead and take part in different environmental and social action initiatives since completing the UpRising programme, one example being his work with Friends of the Earth Cymru where Sion led a campaign working Welsh rugby teams to become plastic-free. Other opportunities Sion has taken on to further his climate activism include radio appearances on BBC Cymru, attending different workshops run by Welsh Government around lowering carbon emissions at schools and housing, delivering a workshop with the Football Assassination of Wales surrounding their sustainability plans, and participating in the Future Generations Leadership Academy - an innovative leadership academy led by the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales.