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Modern apprenticeships branch out into trees and timber

5 May 2020

It’s an exciting time for the world of trees and timber, with increasing interest in the role that trees can play in mitigating climate change and environmental issues.

More than ever, the forestry and arboriculture industry needs skilled workers to care for, maintain and manage trees, woodlands and forests, as well as to produce wood and timber products.

It is a dynamic industry that provides a wide range of benefits from the economic and social to the environmental.  It is also very specialised and can involve working with a vast array of machines, materials and equipment – from planting stock and applying chemicals, through to the use of chainsaws, harvesters and timber-processing machines.

A Modern Apprenticeship (MA) in trees and timber equips students with the skills and knowledge required to meet the needs of a variety of jobs in today’s land-based industries.  These include many different types of businesses such as arboriculture, forestry, harvesting, social forestry and greenwood trades. The MA is a work-based qualification with two different workstreams: arboriculture and forestry.  The forestry workstream focuses on the management of forests and woodland (including planting and harvesting).  Arboriculture covers the cultivation, management and care for individual trees, or groups of trees, for amenity purposes.

At SRUC courses are delivered from the Barony campus and lead to Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) level 5 and 6.  The qualifications are made up of a variety of units that allow employers to create a customised course for their business needs, working alongside lecturers. This includes mandatory units such as tree identification, health and safety, and establishing and maintaining working relationships, and optional units from the planting of trees and control of unwanted vegetation, to maintaining and repairing paths and surfaces, and felling trees using a chainsaw.

An MA offers a combination of specialist ‘on the job’ training with high-quality college-based learning, to ensure apprentices gain the skills and knowledge they need to succeed as a craftsperson forestry worker.  Taking place through block release over 12-18 months, the learner’s competence is assessed by gathering evidence of their work in a portfolio, with assessment taking place either at the campus or in their work placement.

Students undertaking an MA can apply for funding from Skills Development Scotland if they are over 16, aren’t receiving funding from other sources, have a contract of employment and are working in Scotland.
Visit for more information about MAs in trees and timber, or to find out about taking on an apprentice.

Martyn Davies, Head of Forestry SRUC, for the Farm Advisory Service

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