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Two Forest Enterprise Scotland (now Forestry and Land Scotland) employees on the Modern Apprenticeship scheme have been shortlisted for Lantra Scotland’s Learner of the Year Awards 2016.

Greg Ferrier felling a tree with a chainsaw

Greg Ferrier, 25 from Aberfoyle, is working as an Apprentice Forest Craftsperson. He first developed an interest in the land-based industries while working with a local contractor in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. In August 2014, he was taken on as a Modern Apprentice and has since completed an SVQ Level 2. He is now working towards his Level 3 in Trees and Timber. 

After gaining a degree in geography, Sean Donaghy, 24 from Keith in Moray, volunteered for a year with a conservation charity before successfully applying for an apprenticeship as a Forest Craftsperson. He is now doing a Modern Apprenticeship in Trees and Timber.

We catch up with them to find out why they applied to our Modern Apprenticeship scheme and what an Apprentice Craftsperson does.

Greg Ferrier standing on a forest planting siteGreg Ferrier - tell me about being an Apprentice Forest Crafts Person. What’s your working day like?

A working day for me may involve a multitude of tasks, including tree felling, chemical weeding, erecting or repairing fences, bridge building, stock density plot surveying, working at recreational events and planting trees. I have spent the majority of my time with the Forest Management team but have also spent time within the Recreation/Conservation team and hope to return to the Recreation team soon to apply different units of my SVQ schedule to their work.

What projects are you involved in?

I am currently involved in a lot of site cleaning and tree thinning. Recently I have worked with the Forest Management team to create well managed, aesthetic woodlands along the West Highland Way. Dense stands of Birch and Pine have been thinned to allow those trees with great form to thrive. It always looks good when the job is complete!

What attracted you to the Modern Apprenticeship scheme?

When I discovered an apprenticeship related to forestry, I jumped at the chance. I’ve always appreciated the outdoors and the beauty of the National Park, so it was a no brainer to try my hardest to get on the scheme. The work I did with a contractor on the east side of Loch Lomond paved the way for me gaining a place within the forest industry.

What’s been a highlight for you in terms of taking part in the scheme?

Working with fantastic and experienced staff has been a highlight from the start. Achieving qualifications in the safe use of forestry equipment is always a happy moment.  

Greg Ferrier wearing protective clothingWhy did you choose forestry as a career?

The uniform and the vans! I saw forestry vans in my area daily and it always made me want to get one of my own – for the time being I’m living the dream and its great.

Using a chainsaw is always enjoyable and it’s a passion I think I share with all fellow apprentices. I didn’t think I would enjoy it so much – but something I’m looking forward to is another season of planting trees in the sunshine.

What motivates you each day? What do you love about work?

Working with good people. Hoping the weather will be awesome. Making a visible difference on a daily basis.

How does working in the forest district help you towards your qualifications?

The apprenticeship scheme works hand-in-hand with the Forest District so carrying out work generally aids with evidence for SVQ units. The apprenticeship has been a great thing for this reason. Each district can tailor the work to allow for apprentice learning and practice for achieving all the necessary qualifications.


Sean Donaghy - tell me about being an Apprentice Forest Craftsperson. What’s your working day like?

As an apprentice, my role is to learn a wide variety of skills and knowledge aimed at developing my professional competence as a Craftsperson. This means I have to undergo a variety of practical training, some of which is NPTC certified, and put my newly learned skills to use with different teams. I mostly work with the Community, Recreation and Tourism squad carrying out different forest maintenance tasks, and work involving the forest as a recreational facility. I have also worked with the Forest Management Team, planting and beating up restock sites as well as carrying out Stocking Density Assessments. I have worked with the Conservation Team, assisting them with their current workload. I also worked for four weeks with the Harvesting Team, which supervised my chainsaw consolidation.

Sean Donaghy standing next to a fallen treeWhat projects are you are involved in?

Currently I am working on a project to turn areas of grassland in our forests into wildflower areas. By doing this I hope to cut down on the amount of grass cutting that is needed, as well as encouraging pollinating insects into the woods. Replacing the grass with wildflowers; should also be visually pleasing to the public and hopefully educate them on the importance of wildflowers.

What attracted you to the Modern Apprenticeship scheme?

I have always wanted to work outdoors and whilst growing up I spent a lot of my time in forests, either walking or mountain biking. After my degree I volunteered with a conservation charity that did a lot of peat bog restoration. They put me through my chainsaw ticket and gave me lots of practical experience. Reading the job description for confirmed that it was a very practical job that included lots of training and I knew that I had to apply for it.

What’s been a highlight for you in terms of taking part in the scheme?

It is very hard to say any one thing in particular has been a highlight. The fact I have passed all my practical assessments - such as pesticides and large trees - has been a real highlight. The fact that my learning success has been noticed in the way of a nomination for Learner of the Year has definitely been a high point.

Why did you choose forestry as a career?

Although I am from the city I have always preferred to work outside and experience nature. Forestry gives me both of those things.

What motivates you each day? What do you love about work?

Knowing that I am going to work with a great team of people that will support me and my learning in any way they can is a great feeling. Also not knowing what each day is going to entail stops the job from becoming repetitive.

Sean Donaghy felling a tree with a chainsawHow does working in the forest district help you towards your qualifications?

The district that I work in has a great balance of recreation, harvesting and wildlife, which lets me gain experience in lots of different part of forestry. Working across a wide range of teams has allowed me to gain experience that has helped me complete modules for my Apprenticeship and gain knowledge for the future; recently I was out with a Conservation Ranger who was showing me how wildcats are recorded, as well as giving me help with my wildflower project.

Organised by Lantra Scotland, the sector skills council for the land-based, aquaculture and environmental industries, the Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year Awards recognise and reward Scotland’s most talented trainees from across Scotland’s rural sector. The awards will be presented to the winner on Thursday 3 March.

About the Modern Apprenticeship Scheme

Over the last nine years, we have helped almost 700 young people improve their employability and or gain entry into the forestry sector through three programmes: The Modern Apprenticeship Scheme, Employability Skills and Student placements.

The Modern Apprentices are employed within our existing teams and are involved, trained and supported through a wide range of operational tasks and activities, as well as working towards an Scottish Vocational Qualifications level 2 or 3 in Trees and Timber.