A new three-year apprenticeship programme for the forestry sector has been announced today (Monday, February 7) by the Forestry Commission (FC).

The Development Woodland Officer Programme, led by the FC, the University of Cumbria and the Institute of Chartered Foresters, will be the first degree-level forestry apprenticeship to be offered in the UK.

Upon completion of the programme, successful graduates will earn a Professional Forester Apprenticeship (equivalent to Level 6), a Professional Forester BSc (Hons) and the potential to gain Chartered Forester status with the Institute of Chartered Foresters. 

Programme participants will undertake academic studies in forestry management at the University of Cumbria, practical experience in Forestry Commission area teams across England, and nine months of wider sector placements to further build their skills and experience, enhancing future employment prospects.

The overarching aim of this new programme is to upskill and foster a highly skilled workforce within the forestry sector and has been launched today to coincide with National Apprenticeship Week, which this year has the theme ‘Building the Future‘.

“This new programme offers a new and exciting career pathway into the forestry sector for people from all backgrounds and abilities,” said FC chief executive Richard Stanford.

“It offers the unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience, a BSc (Hons) and the potential to gain Chartered Forester status with the Institute of Chartered Foresters. The Forestry Commission apprentices will be paid and will gain all these qualifications, with zero tuition fees and no need for a student loan.

“We are looking for ambitious, driven individuals who are eager to support our ambitious tree planting plans and ensure our precious woods and forests continue to flourish for generations to come.” 

Up to 45 Development Woodland Officer positions will be created over the next three years with the first cohort of 15 starting in September this year (2022). Recruitment for the Development Woodland Officer Programme will open in spring 2022.