The National Trust, Natural England, RSPB and five other major land stewardship bodies have unveiled a new level 4 countryside ranger apprenticeship.

The qualification has been created with the dual aims of helping individuals progress in countryside management careers and assisting employers in seeking new talent or upskilling their existing team.

The new course, which has been backed by the UK Government, was designed and developed by employers, training providers and professional bodies from across the countryside management sector.

This collaboration took place as part of the Countryside Ranger Trailblazer group and was led by National Trust Dartmoor ranger Demelza Hyde, who believes the resultant qualification is “tailored to the specifics of a ranger job role and more in-line with employers’ needs”.

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National Trust staff talking to volunteers before beginning work on Brean Down, North Somerset © National Trust Images/James Dobson

When apprentices complete their studies they will be full equipped to take on roles as rangers, wardens and estate supervisors in a variety of settings throughout the UK.

The new course has “grown out of the hard work and dedication of a committed group of employers, who have put their time into making this a reality even in these uncertain and challenging times”, adds Jonathan Mitchell, deputy director for standards development at the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.

Trust in the future

The new countryside qualification has, in part, stemmed from an unexpected windfall for the National Trust. Donations ringfenced to fund a range of new apprenticeships have exceeded £2 million in the past two years – a 600% increase on the previous two years – with more than half of this figure coming from gifts in supporters’ wills.

“To see such an increase in the amount being given specifically for apprenticeships clearly shows how much supporters value the opportunity to enable people to progress their careers and in turn benefit the Trust’s conservation work,” says Lydia Lee, fundraising director for the National Trust.

“It is fantastic to see more people supporting this initiative, and we are hugely grateful for their support. We are also delighted to have received recent funding from Defra’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund and HSBC to create seven new apprenticeships, including those in countryside and project support roles, which will be vital in ensuring we develop the next generation of specialists to care for our nature, beauty and history.”

The new level 4 countryside ranger apprenticeship is launching alongside 7,000 other opportunities as part of National Apprenticeship Week 2021.

After what she labels “a tough year for everyone”, Gillian Keegan MP, minister for apprenticeships and skills, says she hopes this year’s Apprenticeship Week can be a “springboard to look ahead to how apprenticeships can futureproof workforces and boost careers”.

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