A LEADING agriculture college has joined forces with the UK’s largest forestry and timber harvesting company to meet a growing demand for woodland workers.

Coleg Cambria Llysfasi and Tilhill Forestry unveiled their new partnership - the first of its type - at the APF 2018 show held at Ragley Estate in Warwickshire today (Thursday).

The aim of the Tilhill Diploma in Forestry and Woodland Management is to bring the forest industry an increase to its next generation of managers and operators by way of offering a unique blend of education, industrial experience and bespoke training underpinned by the National Apprenticeship Scheme.

Llysfasi head Iain Clarke said there is a skills gap in the forestry industry and a crucial need to develop a highly-skilled workforce to take the industry forward.

"With the continued introduction of new technologies to the already sophisticated and highly integrated timber production and supply chain, future managers need to have a broader range of skills than ever before," said Mr Clarke.

He went on to say: "Whether it is forest operations, technical support or management, companies frequently have difficulties in recruiting staff with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience needed to manage and maintain the forests of the future.

"Unfortunately, not enough young people are choosing to train and work in forestry and the supply of new entrants has diminished leading to challenges when replacing retiring staff and to expand and push the industry forward."

Lecturer Andy White, who will lead the programme, said forestry in the UK is a growing business and the union of these two pioneering organisations could not have come at a better time.

"This exciting partnership between Tilhill Forestry and Llysfasi aims to provide a direct career path into forest management in a way never offered before," said Mr White.

"Training begins with technical knowledge and skills development at Level 3 and proceeds to management skills at Level 5, with opportunities to enter the work place at the end of each stage."

Mr White added that learners will benefit from the technical input, support, mentoring, and vast amount

of knowledge and experience of Tilhill Forestry staff, as well as tailored work placements, while studying at Llysfasi.

"With the backing of Tilhill Forestry we will be able to deliver the very best of modern forestry training and education. We are all extremely excited to be part of this new partnership and are encouraged by the interest and support already received," he said.

Managing Director of Tilhill Forestry George McRobbie added: “We have been looking for a partner to drive this development for the industry for some time.

“In the past our new entrants have tended to be forestry graduates. By teaching people from an earlier age they can enter the sector sooner and, we hope, stay longer. It’s a win win.

“Our parent company BSW has invested heavily in apprenticeships at our mills and it makes sense to widen the opportunities to work for Tilhill through apprenticeships too. We will also be helping further by sponsoring some students through bursaries.”

The APF 2018 exhibition attracts more than 22,000 visitors to Alecester, Warwickshire, over two days every year for the UK's largest forestry, woodland, arboriculture, fencing and biomass show.

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