£840,000 award for rural apprenticeships


A GROUP of apprentices will gain valuable skills and experience in a traditional rural job, as a result of new funding.

Forestry Commission Scotland’s Skills Programme is the first forestry apprenticeship scheme to receive European Structural Funds backing in the current funding round, which provides a significant level of support to skills and employability across Scotland.

The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring 25,000 new apprenticeship opportunities are available in each year of the current parliament. The First Minister Alex Salmond recently announced the successful delivery of this promise in 2011/12.

The announcement was made by Cabinet Secretary for the Environment Richard Lochhead during a visit to Laiken Forest, near Nairn, where he met a group of forestry apprentices. Mr Lochhead said: “It’s great to see traditional rural occupations such as forestry benefiting from the European Social Fund. The ESF plays a huge role in supporting skills and employability in Scotland.  I am delighted to announce that £840,000 has been awarded to the Commission for its innovative forest sector skills project which encompasses its modern apprenticeship scheme in this area.

“The Scottish Government has set a target of 25,000 modern apprenticeships in each year of the current parliament – 60% more than what was available in 2006/07. This underlines the Scottish Government commitment to do everything it can to support youth employment across Scotland. Forestry not only contributes £670 million to Scotland’s economy each year but also provides vital rural employment so it’s important that we equip people with the skills they need for this industry.

“These Forestry Commission Scotland apprentices are involved in two year training programmes which will equip them with valuable skills and experience that can not only shape their future career paths but also keep their talent within Scotland’s rural sector.”

The ESF funding will be used to support the Commission’s forest sector skills project that aims to establish and embed a recognisable and viable pathway for participants entering the forest industry.  The project will provide opportunities for 34 individuals over three years, while 24 participants will be supported through the Modern Apprenticeship Programme and 10 students will receive industry-related training and work experience.

Ashley Woodhouse, Forestry Commission Scotland Skills Programme Manager, explained: “This funding is a real boost to our skills programme.  It enables us to build and run bespoke apprenticeship programmes within the Highlands & Islands.

“We’ve recently recruited six apprentices currently based in Golspie and Inverness.  They are a great group of individuals who have demonstrated a genuine interest in the land based sector and are very enthusiastic and eager to learn and develop.

“Our aim is to provide them with the skills sets required to address industry demand, and give them the confidence and all round tools, to help them on their forestry career path.”