by Countryside Alliance

The Countryside Alliance has unveiled details of a new Government approved 'Underkeeper Apprenticeship' that it has developed with input from 20 lowland and upland shoots in a major step forward for the shooting community. The apprenticeship has been published by the Institute of Apprenticeships, the Government body for administering vocational training schemes, and funding has been formally agreed. 

Gamekeepers are both custodians of the countryside and ambassadors for shooting. The standard is wide ranging and embraces these responsibilities so that the next generation of keepers will become increasingly effective advocates, securing a sustainable future for shooting. 

Shoots will now be able to employ apprentices safe in the knowledge that they will be trained with the right skills to start their career. The apprenticeship takes place over 18 months and covers all the key areas of gamekeeping. Candidates will work alongside keepers while also receiving off the job training at a number of land-based colleges around the country to achieve the required qualifications. Funding of up to £7,000 for each apprentice has been allocated. 

Adrian Blackmore, Director of Shooting, for the Countryside Alliance said: "We seized the opportunity in 2016 to support estates in developing a gamekeeper standard, when it was announced that the existing courses would cease in 2020. The Government is committed to reforming how apprenticeships are delivered, with employers now specifying the standards that would make an apprentice valuable to them. Working with estates across the country we have helped them create an apprenticeship which will benefit both the apprentice, the employer, the shooting industry and ultimately the countryside and rural economy as a whole."

Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Gillian Keegan said: "Apprenticeships are an excellent option for people of all ages to kick start or upskill in a wide range of exciting and rewarding careers. The new high-quality underkeeper standard will give apprentices the skills they need to play a key role in conservation as well as all the tools to manage a healthy habitat, becoming custodians of the future. I wish all those who embark on the new underkeeper apprenticeship the best of luck on the career journey ahead."

Liam Bell, Chairman of National Gamekeepers' Organisation said: "Training courses and qualifications are continually evolving, and it is only right that the new agreed standards for the Underkeeper Apprenticeships have been led by people from within the game shooting sector. I have had a look at the new standards and I am very impressed. Well done the Countryside Alliance."

Bill Tyrwhitt-Drake, owner of Bereleigh Estate said: "The development of an underkeeper apprenticeship is an excellent and progressive step for shooting. The industry is continually embracing ever higher standards, and this apprenticeship will give shoots the confidence they need to hire the gamekeepers of the future. As a shoot, we provided input into the development of the scheme and are delighted to see that it has now launched. We look forward to welcoming our first apprentice to Bereleigh in due course. 

You can see the full standards here

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