CLIMBING TO THE TOP: AN APPRENTICE’S TRAIL TO ARBORICULTURE – Ewan Main

by | Feb 8, 2024 | Apprentices, Features, Latest, Opinion

Taking place between the 5 and 11 February 2024, National Apprenticeship Week highlights the popular alternative to joining the world of work. We teamed up with Merrist Wood College, the 400-acre, multi-award-winning college that specialises in the land-based industries, to find out more.

Name: Ewan Main

Industry: Arboriculture

Course/apprenticeship: Arborist Level 2

How did you first come into the industry?

I accidentally got into the tree industry; I was going to be a farmer, but I didn’t want to take it as a course at college, so I indecisively joined a forestry and arboriculture course and really took to it and gained a new passion. My boss knows some of the Arb staff at Merrist Wood College and recommended it, I liked the idea of the apprenticeship as I get to spend more time on site.

Can you tell us a bit about your apprenticeship?

I began tree work in September 2022 for Benton Arboriculture as a trainee arborist, from groundwork to climbing. I am often fortunate enough to be given the time to learn to climb which consists of dismantling and reducing trees. I am also very lucky that I am allowed to work on really special veteran oak trees which you don’t come about so often.

How big is the company?

There is a total of nine people in the company, three people doing all the admin and six people going out to jobs. We usually operating two separate site teams as we have a 4×4 tipper, transit tipper and an 18-tonne hook loader.

We take on all aspects of tree surgery and forest management. There are two main teams who go out to different jobs each day. Offering crown reduction, site clearance, tree felling, hedge trimming, stump grinding, formative pruning, conservation work and planting work.

Why choose an apprenticeship?

I believe it is much more hands on and a far better form of learning considering most of it is spent doing the actual job. I spend the Monday to Thursday working as a tree surgeon, then Fridays at college. During the week at work, I improve my practical skills. Then I really enjoy spending the Friday at college as it is a nice way to end the week where I develop my technical knowledge.

What are the biggest challenges that you’re experiencing at the moment?

Heavy lifting is my toughest battle, I was scared going into the industry but all it takes is some getting used to and protein bars!

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I am now trusted to climb and work on 400+ year old oaks trees to carry out conservation work which is a big responsibility to take on. I’m also happy to have achieved my woodchipper NPTC qualification.

What are your plans for the future?

In the future I would like to create an agricultural contracting business which also offers arboricultural contracting services, as these two aspects are what I am most passionate about in life.

If you had any words of wisdom for the future generations joining the industry, what would they be?

You won’t regret going straight into an apprenticeship from school and don’t work yourself too hard.

NATIONAL APPRENTICESHIP WEEK (NAW) IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THE EDUCATION AND SKILLS SECTOR TO CELEBRATE THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF APPRENTICES AROUND THE COUNTRY AND THE POSITIVE IMPACT THEY MAKE TO COMMUNITIES, BUSINESSES, AND THE WIDER ECONOMY.”

According to the government, an apprenticeship is a paid job where the employee learns and gains valuable experiences. Combining on-site training with classroom based learning, apprenticeships spend on average 20% of their time in a college or university environment, allowing for up to 80% of their time to be used for hands-on, paid experience. Leading to a nationally recognised qualification, apprenticeships continue to grow in popularity.

We teamed up with Merrist Wood College, the 400-acre, multi-award-winning college that specialises in the land-based industries, to find out more.

“GET THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS: THE ABILITY TO EARN WHILE YOU LEARN.” – MERRIST WOOD COLLEGE

When becoming an apprentice, you’ll be working for a company – receiving wages, holiday pay, and statutory sick pay, whilst also training or studying for a formal qualification. Merrist Wood College work alongside businesses that provide genuine jobs where apprentices are treated and respected like any other employee. They typically work a minimum of 30 hours a week on a contract that lasts at least 12 months. Programmes usually last for between one to two years and offer a direct route into employment. “Employers are keen to hire people who can hit the ground running,” says Merrist Wood College.

“APPRENTICESHIPS AREN’T JUST FOR SCHOOL LEAVERS: NEARLY A THIRD OF OUR CURRENT APPRENTICES ARE OVER THE AGE OF 19. SO, WHATEVER YOUR AGE, GET IN TOUCH TO KICKSTART YOUR CAREER!” – MERRIST WOOD COLLEGE