Apprenticeships in the South Pennines are equipping the countryside rangers of the future

Posted: 18.06.12

TWO apprentices have started their new careers, leaving their offices behind, with a burst of activity thanks to the full schedule of their host organisations and sponsor.

Former businessman, Charles Baillie, has hung up his suit for good now he’s an apprentice countryside ranger for his host organisation Oldham Council. Despite a drop in salary he’s never been happier.

And the same is true of Katie Quantrell, who has plenty of theoretical knowledge but working in the office of an ecology consultancy missed the practical hands-on aspect of conservation work. Katie is now revelling in her new role as trainee warden through host organisation the National Trust at the Marsden Moor Estate.
The two apprenticeships are administered by rural regeneration company Pennine Prospects as part of the Watershed Landscape project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

“I grew up in Scotland, studied philosophy at Glasgow and then ended up in business for a few years; so I’m probably not your average countryside ranger but I’m a keen mountaineer and climber and I missed being outdoors. I realised I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do so I started looking for alternatives,” explained Charles.

“This is an excellent scheme and I can’t think of a better way of preparing for employment in this sector. I’ve only been here a month and already I’ve done so much; from building bird boxes to drawing up a management plan to promote biodiversity on a site of biological importance at Moorgate Quarry.”

Katie also hopes that this will lead to a career in conservation work. With a master’s degree in primate conservation and experience in a wildlife trust Katie hopes to build on her theoretical base with practical skills; and this apprenticeship is perfect.

“I’m really enjoying it; it’s extremely varied and the training is tailor-made to suit our own interests and career choices. For example, I’m doing, among others, courses in plant identification, first aid, and using chain-saws and all this goes towards a Level Two Diploma in work-based Environmental Conservation,” said Katie.

“I also hope to gain experience of working with the public and groups of volunteers. I’ve worked as a volunteer myself but as a trainee warden I’d like to manage small events and build up my skills in that area as well. Hopefully it will all stand me in good stead to gain employment in the conservation sector after I’ve completed my year’s apprenticeship.”

Only a few weeks into the scheme Charles and Katie have already tried their hands at dry stone walling, laying recycled flagstones to improve moorland footpaths, surveying meadows for plants to feed the endangered twite; working with local school children, researching biodiversity management plans, checking routes for reservoir trails and building bird boxes. And this is just the beginning with many more activities planned for the coming year.

Yorkshire Water United Utilities Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council National Farmers Union
South Pennines Association Lancashire County Council Pennine Heritage Kirklees Council Calderdale Council
Bradford District Council Northern Rail Natural England Environment Agency The National Trust