Living off the Land
Hotcourses Editor

Living off the Land

The benefits of Apprenticeships

First published date July 18 2011 Amended date September 13 2011

Apprenticeships offer new ways into careers, and apprentices are particularly in demand in the environmental and land-based industries. From conservation to animal care to landscape gardening, HotCourses checks out the possibilities…

There are over 190 types of apprenticeships available, from administration through to veterinary nursing. Apprenticeships offer a great way for students to develop skills and knowledge, gain nationally recognised qualifications and progress quickly in their chosen career. They can also offer the opportunity for you to immerse yourself in an entirely new and exciting field of work.

Back to nature
The environmental and land-based industries are especially in need of apprentices. If you have ever thought about a career in agriculture, horticulture or animal care, an apprenticeship could be the perfect entry route. There are often many misconceptions about working in the sector but it’s no longer just about muddy wellies, early mornings and manual labour. There are lots of exciting opportunities available, from environmental conservation to floristry and game and wildlife management to land-based service engineering.

The sector in England employs over 858,000 people and, with 110,000 new entrants needed over the next decade, apprenticeships are becoming a top priority in developing the workforce of the future.

Apprenticeships explained
An apprenticeship is not a qualification in itself, but is a package of learning and qualifications combined with practical work experience. Apprenticeships are designed by industry, developed by businesses, and are tailored to meet the needs of each specific sector. In the environmental and land-based industries, as with most others, an apprenticeship is likely to follow a standard framework including:
•    A knowledge-based element (a technical certificate)
•    A competence-based element (an NVQ-type qualification)
•    Transferable or ‘key skills’

These component qualifications are achieved through either on-the-job experience towards a work-based qualification such as an NVQ, or off-the-job learning where apprentices spend time with a learning provider, aiming for a technical qualification providing them with knowledge and key skills.

Life-changing experience
Capel Manor College apprentices showcased their skills during Apprenticeship Week to Skills Minister, John Hayes MP. He visited the College to meet horticulture and arboriculture apprentices for whom an apprenticeship has been a life-changing experience. Natalie Small, 17, a trees and timber apprentice at Capel Manor’s Horsenden Farm centre works for Anther Tree Services in Hertfordshire. She said: ‘The apprenticeship is a great way of learning because you get hands-on experience as well as college. It’s the reality and the theory at the same time.’ Natalie’s employer, tree surgeon Simon Holyes, also commented about the benefits of apprenticeships: ‘We need lots of skilled arborists so the apprenticeship training is good for the industry.’

Mr Hayes said: ‘Land-based training is vitally important.  There is increasing interest within many areas of the land-based industries including garden design, animal care and arboriculture – they are all important, and not just to the countryside.’

Making a decision
If you think an apprenticeship could be for you, there are many ways in depending on your chosen area. If it’s animal care you’re interested in, for example, your options are more varied than you may think; from work in large kennels and catteries to training guide dogs for the blind and dog handling within the armed forces, there are many opportunities available. For an agriculture apprenticeship, however, you will almost definitely need to spend the majority of your training working and learning on a livestock or arable farm.

Think hard about the type of working environment you are aiming for – if you want to work outdoors, you should be looking for a practical, hands-on apprenticeship rather than one that requires a lot of college time. Once you have decided on your ideal apprenticeship, start searching for vacancies and make ready to embark on this first step to your dream job.

Useful weblinks
The apprenticeships website is packed full of detailed information on apprenticeships in agriculture, horticulture and animal care:

The Sector Skills Council for the environmental and land-based sector (Lantra) looks at available opportunities and explains how  to get started:

Check out the DirectGov website for more useful apprenticeships information:

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