”Take three months to find your feet”.
This was the first instruction I received upon embarking on my career as an Assistant Forest Manager, almost a year ago. It all seemed so simple! However, since then I’ve been introduced to UKWAS standards, LPID registrations, ARC Maps, Gazelle dosage rates, Goshawk exclusion zones, attended the APF Show, pitched a business idea to a den of dragons and been fully convinced of at least ten varying opinions on if and when a crop should be thinned.
My journey to this role within Tilhill Forestry could be seen as somewhat unconventional. Having studied Criminology at university in Dundee whilst working as a handy man then onto greener pastures in Paisley in the ‘Insurance Reinstatements’ department of a construction company, the last place I expected to end up in was where life for me started, the Scottish Borders. Nonetheless, after a 7-year hiatus, I gave into my yearnings for a life in the sticks and left it all to ‘come home’.
Redefining myself as a country bumpkin would require a rustic, grass roots career change so I picked up a spade and set out for the hills to plant trees… and I loved it.
Giving up the office for the outdoors changed my entire outlook on working life and made me appreciate that it’s actually feasible to do something you enjoy for a living. There is an option to suit everyone out there.
Tree planting gave me a platform on which to begin to develop some wider industry knowledge and helped drive me into pursuing it as a career. So here I am working within the UK’s largest forestry company as a graduate and still loving every moment.
What has really struck me, in my thus far limited forestry career, is how it seems to be an occupation which people ‘fall into’. This certainly ran true with personal experience; or perhaps I simply can’t remember the careers advice encompassing the growing forestry industry. But why not? Especially when in 2016 the UK boasted 17,000 people employed in forestry and 27,000 in primary wood processing.
It’s become a passion project of mine to try to spread the word about forestry as a career to our younger generation. For the past 6 months or so I’ve been looking into how we can build upon what Tilhill Forestry has already done and can do more of as an industry leader to help to develop an ‘industry aware’ generation of young people. Progress is being made, a step at a time but then it is my job to watch spruce grow so my patience is endless.
In addition to sponsoring five top forestry university students across the country and attending plenty of school career fairs, we’re lucky enough to have developed a relationship with Borders College in Newtown St Boswells who Tilhill will be supporting this coming year in offering an NPA level 5 Rural Skills – Forestry course for High School pupils. It’s my hope that the relationship will continue to flourish, and we can move forward in providing the fundamental platform of knowledge and enthusiasm which will aid the industry exponentially.
Additionally, there is, of course, the Tilhill Forestry Diploma in Forestry and woodland management being run at Llysfasi College Wales starting in September this year.
We also had the pleasure to host Berwickshire High School at one of our forests in a trip organised by Developing Young Workforce (DYW). I hope this will help to kindle enthusiasm and interest, even if we do it one school at a time.
I’m really open to discussing ideas and future directions for development so get in touch if the prospect seems exciting to you!
Assistant Forest Manager