May 21, 2018

Forestry Apprentices Graduate

Celebrations have taken place in Lochgelly as 5 Forestry Apprentices were recognised for completing a 16-month innovative apprenticeship scheme.

The Fife Forestry Shared Apprenticeship Scheme was a pilot scheme set up by Rural Skills Scotland Ltd., a not for profit sharing rural training company based in Lochgelly, to test new ways of delivering Apprenticeships across the land-based sector. The pilot was funded by Forestry Commission Scotland, Fife Council’s Job Contract with additional support from Lantra Scotland. Funding was also secured from Our Bright Future which is a nationwide £33 million programme, funded by the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund.  It provides opportunities for young people to connect with their local environment and for the Fife based project this includes a range of fantastic Modern Apprentice opportunities.

The pilot was established in direct response to concerns from the industry about an ageing workforce and shortage of new entrants, as well as the ability of small forestry businesses to employ new staff and provide continuity of work to keep them busy. Another issue when it comes to small businesses employing Modern Apprentices is that the process is sometimes seen as cumbersome and time-consuming and a burden to existing resources.

The Fife Forestry Shared Apprenticeship Scheme saw 6 young Fifers employed directly by Rural Skills Scotland Ltd., given initial certified training and then spending the majority of the rest of the 16 months working on a variety of placements around Fife. These included placements with Fife Council, Forest Enterprise Scotland, Fife Coast and Countryside Trust, Falkland Estate, CLEAR Buckhaven, Treeline Scotland and Wemyss Estate.

Three of the Apprentices have now secured employment with Fife Council’s Parks and Open Spaces Team, one who left the scheme at Christmas has secured work with Stirling Council and one is due to start college after the summer.

Presenting the Apprentices with their certificates, Alex Rowley MSP congratulated all who had taken part, recalling his own experiences working within Parks and Open Spaces for Dunfermline District Council.

Mr. Rowley commented that it was, “vital for opportunities such as these to exist for young people to move into employment. Many of the skills learned will stand each young person in good stead for the rest of their lives regardless of where their career path takes them.”

Stewart Christie, Director with Rural Skills Scotland, commented that “For us this pilot has been about proving that the concept of the Shared Apprenticeship as an alternative way of delivering Apprenticeships works. We have learned a lot and tweaked the scheme as it progressed but we can confidently say the programme has delivered on its aims of getting young people into jobs in the land-based sector. It has been well received by the Apprentices and placement providers alike and we are keen to secure funding to roll the model out across the country.”