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Institute interviewed about skills crisis on BBC Radio 4

Our October 2021 position paper to governments across the UK detailed our serious concerns about the skills shortage in our sector, and its knock-on effect on achieving climate targets.

This week Defra released their Environment Improvement Plan (EIP), which is the first revision of the 25 Year Environment Plan that was published in 2018. In light of the new legally-binding target of increasing England’s tree and woodland cover to 16.5% by 2050, the EIP states that ‘tree planting ambitions will require thousands of new jobs in the forestry sector to plant and manage our current and future treescapes’.

The Institute’s Senior Education and Outreach Officer, Dr Rob Hawkins, was invited on BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today programme to talk about why the sector urgently needs more skilled individuals across the sector to deliver the work, and why government funding is a good start for this recruitment.

Dr Rob Hawkins said:

“There is a lot of interest from young people coming into the sector, but there might not be a college local to them that’s able to offer a forestry-related course.”

Listen to the full interview online from 02:59 – 06:07 here.

Defra and the Forestry Commission are working on programmes to increase the size and skills of the forestry workforce. To boost capacity in the short term, the Forestry Training Fund (FTF) will offer subsidised accredited short-course training to those working in, or near, the forestry sector. Going live next week, the FTF will offer individuals the opportunity to upskill into everything forestry-related from tree planting to forest harvesting operations.

In addition, the Forestry Commission will be working to support training providers and forest businesses with extra resources to increase the numbers on the Level 3 Forest Craftsperson apprenticeship – ensuring a steady supply of highly skilled, motivated individuals to carry out the forest establishment, maintenance and harvesting operations critical to achieving the targets in the short to medium term.

On top of that, we are working in partnership with Forestry Commission and the University of Cumbria to bring through the new generations of Professional Foresters, who will design, plan and manage the forests of the future, through the new degree-level Professional Forester apprenticeship (Development Woodland Officer programme). We are actively recruiting for the second cohort of Development Woodland Officers to start in September 2023 and the closing date for applications is 26 February 2023 – find out more and apply here.

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