Last week we had the chance to chat to Alan who has worked at Reaseheath for the last 15 years as an assessor and 10 years as a course teacher in our Forestry and Arboriculture department. Alan has extensive knowledge of the industry and we wanted to get his thoughts on a number of areas so that students are well equipped starting the course.

How did you get into the industry?

I didn’t particularly enjoy school, I was dyslexic and didn’t like being confined to the indoors. However, I really enjoyed environmental studies and did well in sports.

At the age of 17/18 I had the chance to work on a placement with The National Trust at Dunham Massey, the program was run by the government at the time through the YTS Youth Training Scheme. It was a brilliant experience and I loved working in such stunning grounds.

In 1985 I moved to work for Manchester City Council which opened up many opportunities and different sites to work on. From Platfields to Fallowfields, Moss Side and the City Centre, no day was ever the same. Life was always exciting, and I was proud to be part of the team who put the Christmas lights on the tree every year in the middle of town. With the council I also had the opportunity to do a range of different training programmes, complete the NPTC blue book and train to be an assessor. After this I worked at Wythenshawe Park with young people that needed help which was a very rewarding experience.

What are the typical things that you would work on?

The forestry industry is so varied and that’s what I love about it.

You have the opportunity to work with a whole variety of people and tasks that include climbing and chain-sawing, clearing paths, call outs to major roads blockages to thinning of trees for safety purposes.

I learnt quickly to keep my head down and wits about me in the industry. Most gangs run on a basis of three in a team, so each of your teammates are relying on you to get your part of the job done right. If you make a mistake it can be very costly when you are up a tree with a chainsaw in your hand so you must know when to reign in the banter and know how to behave. You need to also be polite and read the room, one day you can be working with the emergency services or on a large woodland project and the next you can be in someone’s garden around children, so it’s good to always be respectful and polite.

Nowadays the equipment we use is much lighter than a few years ago, but still the role can be physically demanding. It does however keep you fit and aware that the environment can change at any point so you naturally mature at a fast pace.

What type of person is a good fit in the forestry industry?

There’s a whole mix of personalities that come on the course, you don’t necessarily need to be a good climber or want to go up trees every day.

We have men and women who want to go into a profession that can include groundworkers, forestry, conservation, planning and timber carving. Most of our students do have one thing in common though – they know where they are going and what they want to do.

As long as you are hardworking, motivated, willing to listen and learn, then you will do very well studying forestry and woodland management.

You will learn how to work in a close-knit team and have the chance to grow personally in ways that you wouldn’t think of when you start. A benefit to learning at Reaseheath is that you also get free membership to the Arb Association whilst you are a student, helping you to expand your knowledge, have access to further training and meet other like-minded people.

What is it like to work at Reaseheath?

I have worked for fifteen years assessing at Reaseheath and I’m in my tenth year of teaching. The students here are brilliant to work with and my colleagues are too. The instructors that we have each have their own business, so they understand what it is like in the industry and have their connections to help students get experience in real life situations.

Our courses include first aid and mass haemorrhaging which is quite literally lifesaving with the equipment that we use. We use a two-rope system for additional safety that most other colleges don’t offer and each week we run a day of practical’s where students alternate between tree climbing, chain-sawing and estate skills.

It is a great experience working with colleagues on the events side too. We get involved in the Royal Welsh Show, Cheshire and Nantwich shows through to school open days and each time meet ex-students who have opened their own businesses and are now asking for students that they can train and work with.

What would you like to say to someone who is thinking about getting into the industry and starting a course?

The freedom of the industry is the best thing. You can easily move around and no day is the same. You can meet all sorts of people and work in either the city, town or a village, and you will have the flexibility to work on a big variety of projects.

I would highly recommend getting experience through a reputable company. You can do a day a week in industry with our T Level courses and course leaders will help you with contacts or just pick up the phone and start ringing around too. Learn early how to start building relationships which will not only help you increase your confidence now but it will also open doors for you in the future.

If you are thinking this course interests you and you want to chat to a member of the team about what your career could look like in the industry then do get in touch. We can arrange a taster day or tour and you can talk through what you need to take the next steps.