The Scottish School of Forestry at Inverness College UHI has launched its first Modern Apprenticeship (MA) in Trees and Timber.
Forest Enterprise Scotland is among the first organisations to sign up to the two-year programme which will allow people new to the forestry industry to study and work at the same time.
Eight new recruits started on Monday 28th January and they will receive on-the-job experience and training with Forest Enterprise Scotland, backed up with further skills and a recognised SVQ2/3 qualification from the Scottish School of Forestry, Balloch.
They’ll learn a range of forestry skills from tree identification and planting to health and safety and land maintenance.
The first four months of their apprenticeship will be based at the Scottish School of Forestry before working onsite for Forest Enterprise Scotland at locations throughout the Highlands including Inverness, Lairg, Fort William and Durris (Aberdeen).
The male and female apprentices – a combination of school leavers, adult returners and career changers – will be assessed onsite by the Scottish School of Forestry throughout the remainder of their two-year programme.
The Scottish School of Forestry is already working with an apprentice from Glen Tanar estate in Deeside.
It is hoped Forest Enterprise Scotland’s engagement with the MAs and partnership with the land-based college and university sector will act as a catalyst for other forestry related businesses to consider the programme.
Amanda Bryan, interim head of the Scottish School of Forestry, said: “We’re excited to be delivering a Modern Apprenticeship in Trees and Timber, which complements our current further education and higher education offer. The industry needs to be investing in young people and new skills to ensure its future success and we’re delighted to be working with estates and organisations like Glen Tanar and Forest Enterprise Scotland to attract new young recruits into the industry.”
Laura Watt, 25, from Lancashire, worked as an environmental education officer for the Lancashire Wildlife Trust before applying for the apprenticeship.
She said: “I want to be outside doing practical things, so when the apprenticeship was advertised it seemed a great opportunity to learn more and train. I also love the Highlands, I holidayed here a lot when I was younger, so the beautiful countryside location was a big attraction. I would love to stay in the region and work as a forestry craftsperson.”
Laura will be based in Lairg for her apprenticeship.
David McMillan from Tomatin, studied a BSc (Hons) in Environmental Science at Perth College UHI before volunteering.
“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after I left university, so I decided to try and get lots of different experience,” he said.
The 24-year-old worked for Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, RSPB and the Nevis Landscape Partnership before deciding to apply for an apprenticeship with Forest Enterprise Scotland.
“I volunteered as a ranger and loved being outside in the forests, but I was really interested in learning more about the industry and what was going on behind the scenes,” he said. “I’d love to move into forestry conservation and this apprenticeship is the perfect starting point.”
He will be based in Culbokie for his apprenticeship.
Forest Enterprise Scotland previously ran its own apprenticeship programme between 2006 and 2016, with a total of 105 apprentices receiving a range of industry relevant and personal development training. Many of these former apprentices have achieved careers within the forest industry and land-based sector and continue to develop their professional learning throughout the sector.
The Scottish School of Forestry sits in its own 10-hectare woodland site in Balloch, making it the only forestry training provider delivering both further education and higher education courses within its own practical training environment. In addition to its new Modern Apprenticeship, the SSF delivers a range of qualifications from NC Rural Skills and Certificate in Forestry to HNC/D Arboriculture and Urban Forestry, PDA Forestry, HNC/D Forestry and its BSc (Hons) Forest Management.