Britain’s forests are some of the most stunning and bio-diverse in the world, providing a natural habitat for wildlife, timber for building, recreational areas and, most importantly, the air we breathe. Looking after and preserving these precious areas is vital for the future of the sector.
Sustainability is at the forefront of Borders College’s Strategic ambitions for the next five years and a course in forestry is helping to achieve this by teaching youngsters the importance of tree planting and sustainable forest and woodland management.
The National Progression Forestry Level 5 Award is delivered as part of the Schools Academy programme and the College is leading the way in teaching the next generation of arborists.
The course was run for the first time in 2019/20, with School pupils attending, as part of their timetabled subjects, on a Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. Progression opportunities range from full-time study in Conservation and Wildlife or Woodland Management to jobs within the rural sector.
The course will have a positive impact on the sector in terms of future operations, with youngsters using the latest technology to aid their studies. These include digital tools to identify trees and electronic ID tagging for locating them. Lecturers also use technology within the forests to help deliver lessons.
Borders College lecturing staff work in partnership with the industry, including Tilhill Forestry, Borders Forest Trust (BFT) and Real Wood Studios, in delivering the forestry qualification. Aspiring foresters complete SQA units including, Introduction to Forests and Woodlands, Production and Care of Young Trees and Rural Business Investigation.
Working with Borders Forest Trust, the College has been producing planting packs, containing seeds and instructions for planting, which are given out to the pupils. A College-wide tree planting project is also in the pipeline. Borders Forest Trust have indicated that they would be happy to work together with the College on this, and have already provided information packs and supported the project with a selection of seeds and small trees to get the things underway.
Anna Craigen, Community & Education Officer at Borders Forest Trust commented:
“BFT are delighted to support this excellent course. It’s a fantastic opportunity for us to engage with enthusiastic young people; encourage and inspire the next generation of woodland guardians, and also ensure the sustainable management of our wonderful, biodiverse woodland resource into the future.
“We hope to extend our tree and woodland related partnership work with Borders College by opening up opportunities for the whole college community to get involved in our work as part of our 25th anniversary celebrations in early 2021. Watch this space.”
Mary Thomson, Curriculum Learning Manager for Rural Skills, commented:
“The enthusiasm and commitment of our partners across the forestry sector has been inspiring for our staff and learners. I look forward to doing more partnership working as our College sustainability strategy develops over the next few years.”
The course supports a wider understanding of where forestry fits into the rural sector, farming and conservation. In 2020/21 the College began the schools Forestry course online, including a 'virtual' field trip to begin tree identification work. When Covid restrictions ease, students will once again get back to their practical sessions.