Countryside Rangers in Scotland – Youth are the Future
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Luke Taylor, 20, West Lothian
Many people have never heard of “Rangers” nor have any idea of what the job is actually about. I’ve heard: “You’re just a litter picker” and “You just take kids outdoors“; which is true, but there are so many other aspects that people don’t realise or appreciate. I have encountered many inspiring people who are rangers, often the type of person who lives to work and carry out their role above and beyond their own pay grade. A ranger's work has much unseen importance, such as such as the protection, conservation management and the interpretation of a resource, including education and awareness, plus health care, access for all, all of which provides public enjoyment of Scotland’s outdoors. I have experienced and delivered all of these things over my 3 years as a Ranger. It seems that sometimes it is only when you're not doing something that it is noticed and this is why I am always eager to talk to people not only about what my job entails but also about the positive and essential role it has to play in our society. Rangering in Scotland, however, is no longer what it once used to be and many of the Ranger Services cannot deliver in a way they once did. Given the current situation in Scotland, there are only around 280 Rangers currently employed, the sector is in dire need of a higher funding priority, and needs more job opportunities in general for existing Rangers and for those who want to join the profession.
I started my career as a Ranger through a Modern Apprenticeship in 2016 which led to several opportunities, awards, and even a full time job. As I went through my apprenticeship, I began to wonder why there weren’t very many other young rangers like me…
Thanks to my apprenticeship, I haven't had to face the initial challenges that most people who want to become rangers face. These challenges, however, have continued to be of concern, not only for me and my own future within the profession, but for the younger generation that I am trying to inspire. If I hadn't had the apprenticeship opportunity I don’t think I would have become the same Ranger that I am today. As a Seasonal Ranger, I no longer have the security I enjoyed as an apprentice and I can see why so many people are deterred from becoming a Ranger. I wonder what resilience young aspiring rangers must need today.
I often find myself in a dilemma, when talking to parents or career advisers. Becoming a ranger is not easy. I was lucky to have the option of either to going college or becoming an apprentice. I picked the apprenticeship and I remember thinking “Why would I want to be a student when I can do the job already”. There are lots of hardships that are putting off both young people and a lot of adults too: the jobs are often scarce, the job market is very competitive, and the pay is just about enough to get by on. It makes it very challenging for me to promote the profession to young people when I am faced with such a daunting and uncertain future.
The environmental sector is an active career choice and the need has never been greater, with climate emergency and the health agenda (mental health and fitness). In my view the college system is not entirely to blame for this problem currently it is one of the few options that most people have and it is clear there is a pressing need for more opportunities, such as apprenticeships. I believe that a lot more young people would be inspired to become rangers if these opportunities were available
The Scottish Countryside Ranger Association, in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage, offers the Junior Ranger Awards. There are Ranger Services across Scotland supporting groups of young people experiencing what it's like to be a Ranger and obtaining the skills needed to be one. These 16-18 year olds are going to be part of Ranger Services in the future, so we need to be able to provide career opportunities to keep this profession going.
“If we don't have young people being recruited the succession is not there, and like a woodland we all grow old together then fade away, and Rangering is heading that way too. This undermines the investment of public funds in the profession that’s been there over the last 50 years.”
George Potts, Chair
It is apparent that we have a lack of representation of young people in our industry which needs to change. I have been fortunate enough through projects such as Lantra Scotland’s Industry Champions Initiative and The Rural Youth Project to meet other young people working within land based industry and rural communities. This has been very valuable and has allowed me to network, learn about these industries, and share ideas and similarities between our professions. By being an ambassador for SCRA and my industry, I hope that more young people will aspire and have the opportunity to become rangers. This will only become possible through, apprenticeships, collaboration between organisations, and a shift in government priorities. There is an urgent need for the government and employers to think about the long term future of this profession.
To conclude I would like to thank the Scottish Countryside Rangers Association for the support and encouragement they have given me, as well as to Lantra Scotland and The Rural Youth Project, who without them I would never have met and been inspired by some of the other amazing young people out there.
My Social Media Links
Facebook Page: @CountrysideRangerLuke
Lantra Scotland: https://www.scotland.lantra.co.uk/lantra-scotland
The Rural Youth Project: https://www.ruralyouthproject.com/