Learning on the job at the Englefield Estate is giving forestry trainee Joe Western his ticket to the future.
The youngster has earned his first qualifications or ‘tickets’ under the supervision of Englefield’s Forestry Manager, Rich Edwards, helping Joe to take his first step towards a career in woodland management.
The first half of Suffolk-born Joe’s year-long placement at Englefield, which began in September 2021, has seen him tackle planting, cutting and forwarding timber. He’s already been passing on skills to children from local schools by planting 50 trees at Christmas with them and showing them how to plant and protect them.
Joe explained: “I've started to get a few of my tickets now, which allows me go off and do more jobs by myself.
“We're just towards the end of planting season which I've enjoyed. We’ve mostly been putting in oaks and alder, along with hazel and hawthorn.
“I've also been doing quite a lot of timber harvesting and extracting in the last couple of months. All of the Estate’s timber is managed under a long-term plan and it is important that a sustainable timber crop is harvested.”
Joe’s ticket for forwarding timber meant mastering complex tractor controls, picking up wood from the forest and taking it out to the roadside.
Rich Edwards explained: “He's gone from never doing it before to being able to work independently in just a few months and that’s a really good achievement.
“It's not a simple technique, mastering the controls is a bit like rubbing your tummy, patting your head, hopping up and down whilst looking out for multiple hazards all in one go.”
Joe added: “It's a difficult job to learn, but the team have years of expertise that I’ve been able to learn from and they have been very patient with me.”
The Englefield woodland also supplies the film industry, providing trees for film companies to adapt in their studios, and Joe has sourced oak wood to be turned into various kinds of trees on set.
Reducing the impact of climate change has also featured in Joe’s training, he stressed: “With a lot of forestry work you're thinking 50 to 100 years in the future on each job.
“That's been reinforced to me ever since university. In particular, I'm very interested in catchment sensitive farming, and targeting woodland schemes to improve river water quality.”
Joe’s placement was made possible through the Forests Roots scheme run by the Royal Forestry Society to train woodland managers of the future. Joe is one of seven graduates around the country this year.
Rich said: “From an employer point of view, the Forestry Roots programme is great because having a trainee costs in time and internal training.
“The aim of the scheme is to give that first job in the sector to people who are struggling to get a foothold in the industry. It gives Joe hands-on experience, he gets his tickets and an opportunity to learn, and then go on into what will hopefully be a very successful career.
“As his experience increases his output increases too and he can do more jobs and see the wider forestry work on the Estate, so for us, trainees like Joe are a real asset.”
Joe said his time at Englefield has been invaluable: “In six months of this programme, I've learned more than in the years I’ve been trying to get an entry-level job. It’s difficult to get experience in the industry as people have to invest time into training you up. That's why the Royal Forestry Society is so good, it's giving you a step on that ladder.
“At the end of 12 months I'm not going to be the finished article but I’ll have enough experience and skills to help me secure a job.”
Joe's already got his tickets in tree felling, forwarding, herbicide application, first aid at work and emergency first aid including major bleeds, and setting up work sites on the highway. He’s now looking forward to learning brush cutting, pole sawing, and large tree felling.
Rich added: “We want to increase his skills with timber forwarding, timber felling and forest management activities like pruning.
“He's also going to shadow me to look at the paperwork that goes alongside the practical elements, like felling licences, timber harvesting pre-commencement meetings, looking at hazards and constraints, as well as gaining experience in other practical work and maintenance.”
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