Scotland’s Rural College is the first institute in the UK to have used cutting-edge technology to log students’ progression towards operating forest machinery.
At the start of Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2019 (4-8 March), four forestry apprentices have been using simulators at the Barony campus in Dumfries to work their way through a TimberSkills training course, developed by the machinery giant John Deere to monitor the progress of trainee foresters as they hone their skills before moving to real forest machines.
After gaining the basic skills and knowledge to start work on forwarders – the vehicles used to carry felled logs – apprentices Gemma Brown, 30, Jack Marshall, 17, Kris Faulder, 22, and James Thomson, 24, are now putting their training into practice on site in Galloway Forest District.
“We are the first college in the UK to use this training course and it is proving to be a great success,” said Paul Fotheringham, Senior Instructor in Forestry at SRUC.
“Some of the key advantages of the TimberSkills course, over the previous use of simulators, is that there is a structured learning programme, it measures the progress of students and quickly identifies aspects of the student’s work that needs to be worked on.
“Importantly, it prevents the development of bad habits from the outset, meaning that time doesn’t need to be spent ironing these out later on.”
Modern apprentices Jack Marshall, Kris Faulder and James Thomson with senior instructor in forestry Paul Fotheringham
Jock McKie, Country Manager at John Deere Forestry, said: “It is great that we are using this cutting-edge technology here in Scotland to benefit the student learning experience – it is an integral part of their development before we throw them the keys to a £400,000 machine.
“We are delighted to continually support SRUC through the provision of the simulators and machines as we strive to find the operators of the future.”
The trainees were the first to be accepted onto the pilot Forest Machine Operator Modern Apprenticeship scheme – developed by the Scottish Forest and Timber Technologies Industry Leadership Group, in partnership with SRUC and other public and private organisations – which trains young people to operate the hi-tech machinery used in the harvesting and primary processing of timber.
They will spend their first year working for Forest Enterprise Scotland (FES), with training carried out at Barony and in Galloway Forest District.
Two will remain with FES for the second year and two will be employed by forestry contractors Treetop Forestry and Elliot Henderson Timber Harvesting.
The pilot is being funded through the Skills Development Scotland (SDS) Modern Apprenticeship programme, with additional employer support provided by Forestry Commission Scotland.
As part of the scheme, four harvesting machines have been provided by John Deere and Komatsu, with other companies providing fuel and ancillary equipment.
The pilot scheme will be reviewed after one year with a view to offering more apprenticeship places to young people in the future.
To find out more about Modern Apprenticeship programmes at SRUC.