Successes for the new suite of Countryside Apprenticeships within the National Trust

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By Demelza Hyde & Caroline Noon, National Trust Apprenticeship Scheme

Apprentice Assistant Ranger setting up winches at Lydford Gorge, Devon ©National Trust Images
Apprentice Assistant Ranger setting up winches at Lydford Gorge, Devon ©National Trust Images

Apprenticeships are an exciting opportunity for people of all ages, backgrounds and experience to learn on the job through hands-on experience. Since the new apprenticeships standard went live here at the National Trust, we have been working hard to utilise the new routes available across the organisation. Since spring 2020 we have created 48 opportunities and counting, for people to gain the knowledge and skills to start or progress their career in countryside management.

Despite delays in our first cohort of apprentices completing due to the Covid pandemic, to date 75% of our new hire apprentices have secured roles in advance of completing either within the Trust or with other countryside organisations. This is a real credit to the commitment shown by the apprentices, mentoring and support received at each property, the breadth of knowledge and skills gained as well as the value of the apprenticeship standards to our organisation and the wider industry.

Apprentice Ranger planting sphagnum moss plugs on Marsden Moor, West Yorkshire ©National Trust Images/Annapurna Mellor
Apprentice Ranger planting sphagnum moss plugs on Marsden Moor, West Yorkshire ©National Trust Images/Annapurna Mellor

Currently we run 3 countryside apprenticeship schemes: 2 general ranger apprenticeship routes at level 2 and 4 , as well as the more water specific Water Environment Worker level 3. All our apprenticeship programmes currently only run in England, however we are investigating how we can replicate where possible for Wales and Northern Ireland.

Our Assistant Ranger apprenticeship is based on the level 2 Countryside Worker standard and is an 18 month programme run for new employees and our less experienced existing teams who are looking to gain experience and knowledge in countryside work and gain an industry recognised apprenticeship. With the level 4 Countryside Ranger apprenticeship, we are using it to upskill our existing ranger teams, helping them develop in their role or progress their career and this allows us to deliver our land, outdoors and nature objectives. Our Riverlands apprentices based on the ​Water Environment Worker level 3 apprenticeship, specifically support our Riverlands project. This multi-habitat creation and restoration programme at a practical, and policy relevant, catchment scale works in partnership ensuring that rivers and catchments are clean, healthy and rich in wildlife.

Apprentice Ranger carrying out Ash die-back felling on the Ickworth estate ©National Trust Images/James Dobson
Apprentice Ranger carrying out Ash die-back felling on the Ickworth estate ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

Apprentices receive a minimum of national minimum wage for level 2 and this increases dependent on the level of apprenticeship they are enrolled on. The training element of an apprenticeship including the end point assessment is funded by the levy which we try to optimise as much as possible and all the other associated costs are funded by the National Trust from a variety of sources including central and property funds, grants such as Green Recovery Challenge Fund and over £2m in the form of generous donations received in the past two years from members of the public, specifically aimed at funding a range of new apprenticeships.

Traditionally people wishing to start a career in countryside management would go to college or university and then would have to volunteer to gain practical experience to secure a paid role. Now our Assistant Ranger apprenticeships offer an alternative cost-effective entry route into the Trust and the wider industry for people without any prior experience, knowledge, or skills. The ranger apprenticeship we offer at level 4 is ideal for those who have come into rangering via volunteering without a formal qualification in countryside management, or for those rangers who want to progress their career or simply improve their existing knowledge.

Whilst the Trust currently has over 130 apprentices enrolled across the whole organisation on apprenticeships ranging from level 2 to level 7, since spring 2020 we have enrolled 5 Riverlands apprentices (on the Water Environment Worker level 3), 24 Assistant Ranger apprentices (on the Countryside Worker level 2) and 19 Ranger apprentices (on the Countryside Ranger level 4). Out of the 4 completing Riverlands apprentices 3 have secured roles in the Trust and another externally. Out of the 24 Assistant Ranger apprentices, 20 were new employees and 4 were existing staff upskilling. Out of our first cohort of 10 (including 2 existing staff upskilling), 5 have already secured roles in the Trust and another has secured a role externally, with all of these secured in advance of completion. The remaining apprentices are still all on programme and will complete in 2023. There have been delays in our first cohort completing due to coronavirus, however the scheme has been successful and this year we will be recruiting our 4th cohort. New roles are advertised each year and there is always a lot of interest, typically between 60 and 80 applications per role.

Riverlands Apprentice carrying our river work ©National Trust Images
Riverlands Apprentice carrying our river work ©National Trust Images

There are many success stories including:

  • Nick who started as a volunteer, secured a paid level 2 Countryside Worker apprenticeship and now is on secondment as a Ranger
  • Chamonix who wanted to change her career and started as a new member of staff on the same level 2 apprenticeship who secured an Assistant Ranger role whilst on her apprenticeship and has now secured an external job in another countryside organisation before completion
  • Bex and Caera are now Rangers in the Trust and secured the roles before completing their Level 3 Water Environment Worker apprenticeships

We give all our apprentices, both new hires and existing upskilling staff a well-rounded experience that equips them in their future career in addition to providing a strong pipeline of talent for the Trust. Our apprenticeships are more inclusive and representative of the local communities where we work or who visit our places and are a great opportunity for us to offer a consistent training package to all our rangers, regardless of their background.

We are optimistic about the future of apprenticeships in the Trust, and we are continually growing the number and range of apprenticeships we offer, whilst focusing on helping individuals earn while they learn. We will continue to deliver a great experience for all our apprentices and increase the diversity and inclusion of the population, while at the same time contributing to the care of our special places. This year we plan to advertise for 12 new Assistant Ranger apprenticeships (on the Countryside Worker level 2) in England starting in August. In addition to this we will offer 12 Ranger Apprenticeships (on the Countryside Ranger level 4) for our existing teams to upskill. We are also investigating comparable alternatives for our teams in Wales and Northern Ireland. Over the next five years we plan to enrol up to 140 apprentices on the countryside management apprenticeships across the different levels.

For more information on the suite of National Trust Countryside apprenticeships please visit where current roles are advertised and also blogs from our apprentices talking about their roles can be found.

First published in CJS Focus on Volunteering in affiliation with the Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM) on 28 February 2022. Read the full issue here


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Posted On: 29/01/2022

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