Countryside Apprenticeships

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Logo: Bridgwater & Taunton College

By Adam Collett, Trainer Assessor Team Leader - Countryside & Water Environment

Why, within sector, are they are good idea?

Countryside Worker students installing fencing (Adam Collett)
Countryside Worker students installing fencing (Adam Collett)

The environmental sector is filled with a wide range of practical jobs which require a skilled workforce and significant knowledge of the natural world and the interactions of a variety of flora and fauna. Many people follow an academic route through Level 2 and 3 qualifications and up to Degree, Masters and PhD level courses to try and gain entry to this massively competitive field only to be told “You don’t have any practical experience”

This is where apprenticeships open the door, heavily focussed on gaining practical experience in a real job role, apprenticeships allow people to gain this practical experience hand-in-hand with the academic knowledge required. Apprenticeships really are the answer to the question “But how do I become a Ranger/Warden/Land Manager?”

Countryside Worker students in the lab learning plant and insect identification skill (Paul O’Hagan)
Countryside Worker students in the lab learning plant and insect identification skill (Paul O’Hagan)

Apprenticeships have recently undergone a complete redesign to ensure they are relevant and appropriate to their particular employment sector. Modern apprenticeships are developed by a trailblazer group made up of industry professionals who lay out a structure of knowledge, skills and behaviours they would expect to see for a specific job role. The involvement of a range of industry professionals ensures that apprenticeships are relevant to the requirements of their sector.

The apprenticeship standards that come from these groups and are approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education are then delivered by training providers, such as Colleges, and assessed after a set period in a process called End Point Assessment.

The majority of practical skills are delivered in the workplace by the employer, whilst the majority of knowledge delivery is through the training provider. This mix ensures people learn the essential knowledge required for their roles, but most importantly, employers are supported by the training provider to ensure apprentices gain the practical skills required to become effective employees.

Water Environment Worker apprentices at Cannington Campus for block week visit (Adam Collett)
Water Environment Worker apprentices at Cannington Campus for block week visit (Adam Collett)

It is the significant practical elements of job roles in the environmental sector that makes an apprenticeship the ideal choice for someone wanting to gain entry to this field and ensures that apprentices have the practical experience in a range of hands-on skills to make them effective and useful employees.

Emphasis is placed on observation of practical skills at End Point Assessment to confirm an apprentice is competent to carry out tasks safely and to a high standard, this ensures a workforce that both understands the theory and has the practical experience to be an effective and useful employee.

The range of organisations using apprenticeships to develop their staff in the sector are significant, Environment Agency, National Trust, National Parks and Natural England are all running these new apprenticeship standards, demonstrating their relevance and importance in the challenging world of environmental education and development.

How do people apply for them?

There are two main routes for application, new positions and upskills.

New positions are where an employer creates a new job role for an apprentice to train them into either an empty position or to a new role within the organisation. This is most common for the Level 2 apprenticeships, such as the Countryside Worker.

Water Environment Worker apprentices visit Holnicote Estate to see the Beaver enclosure (Adam Collett)
Water Environment Worker apprentices visit Holnicote Estate to see the Beaver enclosure (Adam Collett)

Upskills are where existing employees are put on an apprenticeship programme to develop their knowledge and skills in their existing role and to enable progression within the organisation. This is most common for Level 3 and Level 4 apprenticeships such as Water Environment Worker and Countryside Ranger.

Apprentices looking for a position will need to speak with employers to see if they would be interested in the idea of taking on an apprentice, having volunteered with an organisation can really help here.

Another route is the Government “National Apprenticeship Service” website, where apprentices can search for available roles -

Numerous training providers advertise through this site across the whole of England (apprenticeship delivery being different in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).

Employers looking for training providers to partner with can use the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education website, locate the relevant apprenticeship and click on the “Find apprenticeship training providers” link -

Bridgwater and Taunton College offer all three apprenticeships in the Countryside sector and are the only College to be able to offer these nationally in all regions of England, we have apprentices with National Trust, Environment Agency, North York Moors National Park Authority and recently Natural England, with five assessors based around England we can deliver anywhere in the country and offer the full range of apprenticeships, contact team leader Adam Collett for more information. Find out more at

Feedback from Bridgwater and Taunton College apprentices

Karl Nicholson, Apprentice

“I really feel that I have come to learn a lot more knowledge that relates to my work as field team operative. The delivery and support from my tutor has been great and really helpful which is fully appreciated“.

Peter Savage, Apprentice

“The Waterways Environment Apprenticeship has been interesting so far. The assessors are knowledgeable in their fields and clear with their instructions and presentations and have been extremely supportive. There’s a mixture of online tuition and courses, as well as practical assessments and observations on the riverbank. It’s tailored to suit a range of career paths. I’d recommend this apprenticeship to anyone seeking a career outdoors with the water environment in mind.”

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Posted On: 14/01/2022

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