Some of the UK’s largest conservation organisations have joined forces to find the countryside guardians of tomorrow, as new figures show record amounts have been donated for apprenticeships.
At the start of National Apprenticeship Week (8–14 February), eight major land managers, including the National Trust, Natural England, National Park authorities, Canal and River Trust, RSPB, Wildfowl and Wetland Trust, Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust and Dorset Council, have launched a new government-backed apprenticeship which sees new countryside rangers achieving the equivalent to a foundation degree through on-the-job training.
The new level 4 countryside ranger apprenticeship will help individuals wanting to progress within countryside management, and will help employers looking to hire someone new or upskill existing employees. Once complete, apprentices will be qualified in roles such as countryside, community or recreation rangers, reserve or countryside wardens, estate supervisor or estate and park rangers.
Jonathan Mitchell, Deputy Director for Standards Development at the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, said “The protection of our natural environment is absolutely crucial work, and the new countryside ranger apprenticeship gives people a great opportunity to work in England’s beautiful countryside.
“This apprenticeship has grown out of the hard work and dedication of a committed group of employers, who have put their time into making this a reality even in these uncertain and challenging times. The countryside ranger apprenticeship will be particularly exciting news for countryside workers, giving a clear route for progression and a chance to build a career inspiring people to look after our green spaces.”
Employers, training providers and professional bodies from across the countryside management sector have helped design and develop the new qualification as part of the Countryside Ranger Trailblazer group, led by National Trust Dartmoor ranger Demelza Hyde.
She said: “This is an exciting opportunity for people with some prior knowledge and experience to gain a qualification, additional knowledge and skills to help progress their career in countryside management. Our new standard has been developed over the last 20 months by specialists from our industry. It is tailored to the specifics of a ranger job role and more in-line with employers’ needs.
“The theme of this year’s National Apprenticeship Week is ‘Build the Future’, so it’s very apt that we are launching this new qualification to uncover the countryside managers of the future.”
The National Trust’s Head of Countryside Management and Rangers, Rob Rhodes, said “The new apprenticeship is a great opportunity for us to offer a consistent training package to all our rangers. It is ideal for those individuals who have come into ranger roles via volunteering and haven’t got a formal qualification in countryside management, or for those rangers who want to progress their career or simply improve their knowledge.”
The new countryside qualification comes as the National Trust reveals it received more than £2m in donations over the past two years from trusts and members of the public, specifically to fund a range of new apprenticeships. That figure is a 600% increase on the previous two years, and provides more opportunities for people from a range of backgrounds to find new ways into roles at the Trust. Of the £2m given for apprenticeships, more than half has been donated through gifts in wills.
Lydia Lee, Fundraising Director for the National Trust, said: “To see such an increase in the amount being given specifically for apprenticeships clearly shows how much supporters value the opportunity to enable people to progress their careers and in turn benefit the Trust’s conservation work. It is fantastic to see more people supporting this initiative, and we are hugely grateful for their support.
“We are also delighted to have received recent funding from Defra’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund and HSBC to create seven new apprenticeships, including those in countryside and project support roles, which will be vital in ensuring we develop the next generation of specialists to care for our nature, beauty and history.”
Launching National Apprenticeship Week, Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, Gillian Keegan highlighted the 7,000 apprenticeship opportunities available nationwide on the Find An Apprenticeship website: “Apprenticeships are a fantastic way to learn while you earn, opening up new and exciting career paths that can transform lives. It’s been a tough year for everyone, but we want the theme for National Apprenticeship Week 2021 to be a springboard to look ahead to how apprenticeships can future-proof workforces and boost careers.”
More information about the new Level 4 Countryside Ranger Apprenticeship, and others is available at: https://www.instituteforapprenticeships.org/apprenticeship-standards/countryside-ranger-v1-0
Header image: National Trust Images/Paul Harris.