Senior Forest Ranger Ian is smiling and looking over at Apprentice Tobey before he plants a tree

Celebrating National Apprenticeship Week 2024

31 January 2024
The Heart of England Forest

We are creating and conserving a huge Forest that will be here for generations to come, so investing in the foresters of tomorrow is vital to ensure its future. We are proud to have been running our apprenticeship programme for over five years now. This National Apprenticeship Week 2024, we are celebrating the opportunities and value that apprenticeships bring to the Heart of England Forest.

Our apprentices

The Heart of England Forest apprentices are provided with a wide range of learning opportunities, including theoretical training and hands on experience in all aspects of social forestry. We are proud that our forestry apprenticeship and intern programmes are addressing a gender imbalance in what is an historically male dominated sector (over 38% of our forestry and biodiversity team is female), and that they offer a great route into the sector for people who may not have traditionally thought of forestry as a career path. 

With the number of people seeking a career in forestry in decline, there is a risk of skills shortages in the immediate future if the volume of new entrants into the sector does not increase, and this poses a real threat to the future of our woodlands. 

When I was an apprentice, the knowledge passed to me by the Assistant Forest Rangers was invaluable - I am now in the lovely position of being able to pass knowledge down to other apprentices and interns. Having spent a bit more time with the charity, I feel a real connection to the woodlands I work in, and trying to visualise how what we do now will affect the Forest many years down the line is one of my favourite things to do.
Wilf, Assistant Forest Ranger
Wilf, Assistant Forest Ranger planting a fruit tree

A day in the life of an apprentice  

Here we talk with Apprentice Tobey, about a typical day in the life of an apprentice: 

"As a Forestry Apprentice at The Heart of England Forest, you are very much part of the team and have lots of fun working whilst learning on a day-to-day basis.  
My working day starts at 8 am. In the winter, when I arrive at work there are various forestry tasks that may need to be done, like tree safety management and maintenance, coppicing, tree planting, and much more! Regardless of the activity, we have a chat about the plan for the day as a team and cover things such as where in the Forest we will be working, what we are doing, and what equipment is needed. 
Today, me and the other forestry team members got to work on a day of re-planting trees. An important part of forest management is replacing any trees lost in the previous planting season. Tree planting happens in the months of November to March. When replanting trees, it is important to have everything needed for the day, so the team brief in the morning is important to ensure the efficiency of the task.  
After the area has been assessed and the losses have been calculated and recorded, we get on with the process, starting by bumping in the stakes in the ground. If the previous stakes are ok, we leave them where they are. Stakes are used to support the trees which we will be planting. Making a hole in ground can be tougher when the ground is frozen, but the best bit is putting the small sapling in the ground and securing a protective tree guard. It is really satisfying to see how much can be completed in a day. The aim for the day is to plant as many trees as possible, but focusing on making sure they are planted well to give them the best chance is the priority! 

My favourite trees to plant are wild service and field maple. Planting them now as tiny saplings gives me pleasure knowing what magnificent trees they will grow to become. 

I really enjoyed the part of the day where I was placing guards on the trees when the sun was setting. The incredible views and great sunsets whilst looking back on all the trees we had planted in that day was incredible - I had a real sense of achievement. When all the work was done, we travelled back to the yard and tidied up for the day by putting tools away and parking up the truck. Looking after the tools and equipment is something we learn as part of the apprenticeship; it is important for health and safety.  
There are currently other forestry apprentices at the Heart of England Forest, and we have designated weeks at college in which we learn about the forestry industry to further our knowledge in this field of work. As apprentices, we can share and bring this knowledge back to work, which helps us with things such as identifying trees and other useful pieces of information. In the evenings I would usually do some theory work on my college assignments. 
I honestly believe that doing this apprenticeship with the Heart of England Forest has developed me as a person as well as a forester. The skills I am gaining from this apprenticeship are invaluable and I really enjoy working in this team – I recommend anyone thinking about an apprenticeship in forestry to go for it."

A head shot of Tobey Jones atanding and smiling in a field. They have just finished replanting trees on a grey day.

Career pathways  

As you train to be fully skilled in your chosen occupation and earn a salary at the same time, an apprenticeship could be a great option for getting on the job ladder or for a change in career. 

Keep an eye out on our jobs and careers page throughout the year for opportunities to join the Forest team.  

Volunteering is also a fantastic way to gain valuable experience that can help you on your career path. Find out about volunteering in the Forest here.