Pilot Placement Scheme created for Countryside Ranger Students

West Highland College UHI and NatureScot create pilot Ranger Placement Scheme for Countryside Ranger Students

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Bryon Ford and Katie Dougan

West Highland College UHI (WHC UHI) Rural Skills staff are delighted to have been invited to work on a pilot Ranger Placement Scheme with NatureScot (formerly Scottish Natural Heritage), as a progression for students completing the popular NQ Countryside Skills with Ranger Training course based at the College’s Fort William campus.

The pilot scheme has been created under the NatureScot Programme for Youth Employment and initially sees two Trainee Seasonal Ranger posts at National Nature Reserves (NNR) across the North and South Highlands. Placements commence in June 2021, with students based at an area office, working with NNR staff at several reserves.

The WHC UHI course, launched in 2020, delivers practical training through working alongside land managing organisations in the Nevis area, under the umbrella of Nevis Landscape Partnership, who are also supported by NatureScot. Students learn footpath and access facilities maintenance, woodland skills, habitat monitoring and management techniques. They gain Industry Training certificates and Scottish Qualifications Authority units such as Countryside Interpretation and Recreation and Access management, aiming to equip them for employment in our countryside.  Students welcomed the NatureScot opportunities as a massive step in furthering their career ambitions, with students Bryon and Katie summarising their thoughts: 

Bryon Ford, from Skye said: “I am excited about the opportunity to transition straight from NQ Countryside Skills and Ranger Training to a Trainee Ranger placement with NatureScot. This is a great opportunity to continue my personal development and the next chapter of my career change. I'm stoked about the opportunity to work across the varying habitats of the Highland's National Nature Reserves.”

Whilst Katie Dougan, from Fort William tells us: "I think this placement with NatureScot will be a brilliant opportunity for me to build on the skills I've developed over the course with WHC UHI. I love being surrounded by Scotland's big landscapes and so the prospect of working on some of the most impressive NNR's is really exciting and I can't wait to get started." 

NatureScot’s Head of People and Places, Pete Rawcliffe said: “As part of our Programme for Youth Employment, we’re delighted to offer student rangers the opportunity to develop their skills and gain valuable experience while working on placement at our beautiful nature reserves based in the Highlands.”

“We’re committed to increasing youth employment within our organisation and within the nature-based skills sector as part of the green recovery. The trainee rangers are an important part of this effort and will also complement the additional resourcing we have put in place for tackling some of the visitor management challenges we are likely to face again on our reserves this summer. “

“Our staff are looking forward to working with the trainee rangers on the reserves in June and sharing their knowledge and expertise in looking after some of Scotland’s most precious habitats and helping people enjoy them responsibly.”

For more information, visit the course pages for Countryside Skills with Ranger Training NQ and Rural Skills NC.