by Countryside Alliance

How do I apply to become an Underkeeper Apprentice?

Shoots and estates will advertise when they are looking to take on an apprentice.  You should apply directly to the shoot in response to these adverts.  If you are successful with the application, you should then contact a local college that offers the relevant training and qualifications. A list of these  can be found below.

Finding a suitable estate can be a daunting prospect, especially if you are not from the area.  Positions are often advertised in the back of shooting magazines, such as the Shooting Times, or on gamekeeping forums on Facebook. In addition, the Countryside Alliance is occasionally contacted by estates looking to take on an apprentice.  Please email us at: [email protected] to find out if any estates have contacted us.

You could also contact your local college that offers the training, as they often have contacts with nearby estates looking to take on apprentices.

I have a job as an apprentice, how do I enrol in a course?

If you’ve secured a job on a shoot, you should contact the nearest college directly and they will place you amongst a group of other apprentices and allocate a timetable of training.  Colleges typically provide two starting points each year.

To be accepted by a college you will require a minimum level of English and Maths, at least at GCSE level 3 or D grade.

What training is involved?

A group of 20 upland and lowland shoots have collectively designed the course, and have identified all of the key ‘knowledge, skills and behaviours’ required of a modern keeper.  These are all covered during the course, and will be specifically taught during the college based learning.  Your employment with an estate will help add a practical dimension to this learning.  

You will also undertake qualifications which are essential to your job, such as Wild Game Hygiene and Pesticide Application Certificates.

You can see the full curriculum here.

Who pays for my training?

All of your college-based training will be paid for by the Government.  This is the equivalent of £7,000 worth of teaching and includes the fees for your mandated qualifications.  This will be sufficient for you to complete the apprenticeship.  

Depending on the proximity of the college to the estate, and how the college likes to structure its learning, there may be the requirement to stay overnight at the college.  This will incur an extra charge.  You should research this as soon as possible once you have secured a placement at a shoot, and discuss with your employer who should pay for this.

What qualifications will I gain?

There are 3 mandated qualifications:

  • Level 2 Award in Wild Game Hygiene
  • Pesticide Application
  • Rat Control for Gamekeepers Certificate

In addition to these you will also need to achieve your Deer Stalkers Certificate Level 1.  

What should I expect to be paid as an apprentice, and what will my hours be?

You can expect to be paid the national minimum wage for an apprentice, as it applies to your age and the stage of the apprenticeship you are at.  

Gamekeeping is not a job with traditional hours or working patterns.  As such it is likely that your hours will not always reflect those laid out in your contract.  You should discuss this both with the estate, and the gamekeeper that you will work under, before accepting the apprenticeship.

More details on pay for apprentices can be found on the government website here.

Will I be expected to live on site?

Some estates may offer accommodation, and others my require you to travel to work from elsewhere.  This is a matter for each individual estate and should be discussed with them directly.

How long does the whole apprenticeship take?

The apprenticeship is carried out over 18 months.  Your employment with a shoot can start at any point, but the college-based programs usually start in September and January – though this does vary from college to college.

College County Contact Email
Myerscough Lancashire Andrew Parkinson [email protected]
Askham Bryan Yorkshire Jason Dakin [email protected]
Bicton Devon Simon Grundy [email protected]
Bishop Burton Yorkshire Elizabeth Bainbridge [email protected]
Sparsholt Hampshire Helen Mitchell [email protected]


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