Successful completion of Scotland & Wales Forestry Skills Training Programme announced

Foresight Sustainable Forestry Skills Training Programme training session with chainsaws at SRUC.

TILHILL, the UK’s leading woodland creation, forest management and timber harvesting company, and Foresight Sustainable Forestry Company Plc, the UK’s first listed natural capital investment company, are pleased to announce the successful completion of the 2023 ‘Foresight Sustainable Forestry Skills Training Programme’ in Scotland and Wales.

Launched in 2022, the programme aimed to help young people in rural Wales to gain employment opportunities in forestry by providing training, health and safety equipment and mentoring. Due to its success, the programme was extended into Scotland for the following year’s candidate intake, in partnership with Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC). 

The UK is experiencing a critical forestry skills shortage as it strives to meet tree planting targets to combat climate change and meet the increasing demand for homegrown timber. In 2023, approximately 80% of all timber used in the UK was imported, making the country the third-largest global timber importer – highlighting a clear need to upskill and expand the forestry contractor workforce.

Over 70 applicants applied for the latest programme and the 10 selected candidates have now completed their fully funded training at Coleg Cambria, Llysfasi and at SRUC Barony campus, Dumfries, securing important qualifications in chainsaw operating, tractor driving, tree planting and much more.

The trainees, Ynyr Roberts, Brychan Edwards, Rhys Ap Gwyndaf, and Bedwyr Roberts from Wales, as well as Anna French, James Findlay, Sean Hain, Connor Glover, Jock Munro, and Francesca Roberts from Scotland, come from diverse backgrounds across their respective regions. Tilhill has now employed the Wales candidates as contractors to carry out planting works in its woodland creation sites.

One of the Scottish programme candidates is now undertaking a pre-apprenticeship programme with Forestry & Land Scotland. The candidate will also have the opportunity to join a Tilhill contractor and member of BSW Group, Dick Brothers Forestry, the UK timber harvesting experts for a further 6-month apprenticeship.

Richard Kelly, Co-Lead of Foresight Sustainable Forestry Company, said:

“Congratulations to the Wales and Scotland trainees for successfully completing the second iteration of the Foresight Sustainable Forestry Skills Training Programme. They have shown remarkable dedication and commitment to acquiring the essential skills needed for an exciting career in forestry. These individuals’ newly acquired skills will no doubt be in high demand, in an industry where there is a national skilled workforce shortage. These individuals represent the fresh and diverse talent that the nation’s woodlands need.

“The candidates now have an opportunity to play a major role within their local environment and their communities, nurturing woodlands that will directly contribute to the UK’s Net Zero and biodiversity targets. The success of this year’s programme highlights the value of investing in the next generation of forestry professionals, empowering local communities to contribute to the twin fights against climate change and biodiversity loss.”

David Edwards, Tilhill’s Forestry Director, said:

“It brings great pleasure to be able to welcome ten newly qualified people into the forest industry in Scotland and Wales as a result the fully funded Foresight Sustainable Forestry Skills Training Programme.

“Tilhill is very proud to have partnered with both SRUC in Barony and Coleg Cambria Llysfasi to deliver this programme which has truly upskilled these candidates in a variety of forestry related activities ensuring a strong foundation for their future careers within the forest industry.

“The candidates will have a great future ahead of them and we will see many of them across our managed woodland sites. The next step is for some of the trainees to receive mentoring from Tilhill Forest Managers, people with experience across full timber crop rotations including tree planting, woodland management and the harvesting and restocking of the best quality trees for home grown timber to supply local markets. This is especially important as the UK seeks to replace carbon-emitting steel and concrete in construction with home grown timber from sustainably managed forests.”

Sean Hain, programme trainee candidate at SRUC, said:

“I felt very grateful to be a part of the Foresight Sustainable Forestry programme and had a great time learning about the various roles that contribute to the forestry industry as a whole. The intensive nature of the course provided a full-on learning experience which, although difficult at times, was very rewarding when you look back at the achievements at the end of the month.

The investment into myself as an individual was an honour and further motivated me to commit 100% to the process.”

Andy White, Lead Forestry Lecturer at Coleg Cambria Llysfasi, said:

“The Foresight Sustainable Forestry Skills Training Programme is a fantastic opportunity for young people looking for a start in the forestry industry. This year’s successful students have been lucky enough to receive training and qualifications in a wide range of practical forestry skills including tree felling and chainsaw use, first aid, strimmer, brushcutter and clearing saw use, tractor driving and operation, and pesticide application. New blood is in short supply within forestry, so this program is particularly welcome by encouraging new entrants, and providing the basics they need to get started. The generosity of Foresight in funding these courses, and providing all the necessary PPE, demonstrates their commitment to ‘growing their own’ new generation of foresters of the future.”

Hugh Morris, Programme Leader for Forestry at SRUC, South West, said:

“In synergy with industry leaders, the development of a robust and varied programme for the students has been a great success. We’ve been delighted by the enthusiasm from both students and the industry partners, alongside the attainment of learning witnessed across the cohort. The whole team at SRUC Barony, are looking forward to seeing more young people on campus, helping to start their journey as valued and skilled members of the forestry sector.”

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