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A year in the life of a Forestry Certificate student

Tom Karas, Forestry Lecturer gives an interesting account of a year in the life of a Certificate in Forestry student.

Marketing may have caught your eye on the Web page, Twitter or Facebook.  It might have been a careers advisor, or friends talking about their experiences.  You may have attended an Open Day. You will have completed an application and attended an interview and campus tour.  The offer of a place has been accepted and the PPE sizes and bursary forms completed.  It normally starts on the last Monday in August and the classroom fills slowly with one or two very early, most around the right time and one or two fashionably late.  After checking that everyone is in the correct room, names are checked against the list.  A few will be missing, some will turn up, others lost to the course.

Students look back at the Induction Week as a necessary evil.  We need time to fill in paperwork, log onto the computer system, issue the PPE and go over some basic rules. An Icebreaker or two are thrown in to break up the first day.  By the end of the week we will have been out and about our woodlands and made a start on some tree identification and forest terminology.  The quest for two class representatives will be underway.                        chainsaw maintenance

Weeks 2 to 7 have a practical “round robin”.  Each group of students will experience tractor driving, chainsaw cross cutting and maintenance and strimmer/clearing saw.  They will also do lots of hand tool work.  Weeding, brashing, pruning, drainage and cleaning will all be tackled.  In the classroom we will continue to explore the forest industry, tree identification, forestry calculations and soils.

After the October holiday students look forward to chainsaw felling.  Over the years a variety of woodland owners, estates and farmers have supplied areas that need thinning.  It can be hard, physical work but a sharp chain and good technique makes it easier.  General forestry work is joined by forest tree production.  Gathering, preparing and sowing seeds, taking cuttings and potting up helps keep everyone busy.  Tree planting is added to the mix.  Various tasks are carried out using tractors.  Saw bench, pointer peeler, chipper, winch and trailers are all used.  Some apply and pay registration fees for NPTC assessments.  These and their First Aid + F certificates are helpful gaining access to the industry.  There are individual tutorials and class meetings to gather feedback, discuss work experience options and put forward improvements. The Fitness for Forestry Unit (FFFU) will be improving fitness levels, helps team building and is good fun.

After the Christmas break the new year starts with work placement.  A chance for the students to get to know a part of the industry and the industry to get to know them.  Some have a great time, meet potential future employers and come back inspired.  Others at least know that a certain sector of the industry is not for them.  Fencing and safe use of pesticides are added to their growing list of skills.  Tree climbing and forwarder driving tasters help students decide on their options.  Some leave for employment.  Some apply for the Advanced Certificate course here at the Barony Campus.  Others apply for other education options across SRUC and other providers. tree climbing

The last two weeks are always a contrast.  Those who have handed in everything on schedule, enjoying a relaxed time with some extra tasters.  Those franticly trying to finish off all the units.  Was there a warning about that way back during induction?

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