A career in gamekeeping or countryside management is no doubt a rewarding choice for anyone with passion and enthusiasm for conservation and the countryside. It is encouraging to see that school leavers are now giving serious consideration to the possibility of an apprenticeship in the land-based industries, while those already working in other areas are also considering a career change, choosing to pursue training within this challenging field.
There is certainly a wide range of employment opportunities, both for the practically minded person and those wishing to pursue a more technical route and secure graduate training positions. If gamekeeping is your primary interest, then an apprenticeship route is the ideal solution to your training needs. More often than not, this enables you to secure an under-keeper role on completion of your studies, a good starting point to your career.
Apprenticeship courses have flexible start dates and they continue throughout the year. Inductions are monthly, and programmes vary in duration to suit the needs of the individual. As an apprenticeship trainee, you do not need to hold a formal qualification, although you will be required to attend an interview. Another benefit is that you can gain qualifications while getting paid!
The advantage of the apprenticeship is that you can train while working, gaining experience from people currently doing the job. This is complemented by high-quality resources and experienced staff within the college environment. It is an opportunity not to be missed.
Set in the rolling countryside of rural Northamptonshire, Moulton College, designated as an Outstanding College by Ofsted, has an unrivalled reputation for excellence in training for the land-based industry, both regionally and nationally. Moulton offers 2-year Gamekeeping apprenticeships in either Lowland Gamekeeping or Game Rearing on a day-release basis. One day per week is spent at college and the remainder of the time is in the workplace, although attendance patterns are flexible to meet the seasonal demands of a gamekeeper.
The course covers pest and predator control, habitat management, game bird rearing and release, with the training taking place within the work placement and at Moulton College. The Lowland Gamekeeping stream focuses on gamekeeping and habitat management, while the Game Rearing stream focuses on rearing pheasant and partridge from egg to release.
The College has had the opportunity to work with a number of the large estates in Northamptonshire and neighbouring counties to provide training to Gamekeeping apprentices. It also boasts a new Countryside Management Centre, which opened in September 2011 and houses game rearing, fish rearing and countryside workshops. This building is adjacent to an external countryside skills training area, pheasant release pens and brooder houses.
Countryside Management and Gamekeeping students are heavily involved with using the facilities to rear stock, some of which is released on a neighbouring shoot. A long term ambition of the College is to custom rear for a local shoot, thus increasing the commercial rate of production.
It is clear from talking to those students completing Gamekeeping or Countryside Management courses that there are strong progression and employment opportunities within the industry. One student who recently completed the apprenticeship in Gamekeeping was delighted to secure a position with Her Majesty the Queen, while one of the apprentices currently studying at Moulton has developed such a superb quality portfolio that he will be nominated for a Medal of Excellence, a prestigious award from City and Guilds, on completion of his portfolio.
The experience at Moulton College is very much all-encompassing and students, under the guidance of staff, plan and run an annual clay shoot for the College. Students who prove to be nifty with a gun are selected for the National Clay Target Shooting Championships. At last year’s National Championship, Countryside Management and Gamekeeping lecturer Bob Farmer also showed his skill with a gun, winning the Individual Staff Championship ‘High Staff Member’ with an unrivalled score.
Student Profile: Charlie Withers
Moulton College apprentice Charlie progressed onto the Work Based Diploma in Gamekeeping from the Level 3 Extended Diploma in Countryside Management. Charlie has secured a work placement at the Holcot Estate, where he is getting invaluable experience from the Head Keeper. Charlie enjoys learning while working as this gives him a chance to understand the workload of a gamekeeper, which is important as he heads towards developing a full-time career in the sector.
Charlie says, “I learnt all the medication side of the rearing, both pheasant and partridges using a broody hen; preparing habitats for the game birds and how to look after them with the use of feed and water.
“The difference between the two courses is that I am now being assessed at work by an experienced gamekeeper and I am learning something new every day. Alongside the practical gamekeeping I am developing my portfolio at college, where I use the evidence from my work to go towards my final assessments. Each week my tutor goes through my work and checks what I do and advises me on what I need to complete for my portfolio before the end of the course.
“The Extended Diploma gave me the opportunity to gain additional qualifications that are going to be really useful in the work place: chainsaw, ATV and pesticide. Many of the units are helpful in my gamekeeping work, such as pest and predator control, gamebird production, deer management, shoot management and estate management. The Work Based Diploma is a course tailored towards the profession and goes into detail about other methods that are used throughout the industry.
“I am really enjoying my time as an apprentice and feel that I will have gained excellent experience for my future career.”