“Transformative”- Sam’s Forestry Roots post

After graduating with a Level 3 Forestry and Arboriculture higher national diploma at Hadlow College, Sam Ozaktanlar was finding it hard to enter a relatively small yet exceedingly competitive industry at a trainee level whilst also supporting himself financially - until he was recommended the RFS Forestry Roots programme.

By Sam Ozaktanlar · June 1, 2019

Here Sam reviews how Forestry Roots gave him the experiences he needed for a permanent post

Forestry Roots provided vital and valuable training to fully equip me in becoming a competent forest worker. My placement was in the Heart of England Forest, an exciting charity aiming to plant and conserve 30,000 acres of native broadleaf woodland in Warwickshire and Worcestershire, restoring the two ancient forests of Feckenham and Arden for people and wildlife.

I found my time as an intern to be a transformative learning curve. I learned how to drive an array of vehicles including mowers, tractors and ATVs, receiving LANTRA training in safe use of a tractor and trailer. I also learned how to conduct wildlife surveys and supervise volunteers in forestry tasks as well as how to repair fencing and the correct practise for planting trees. Tree planting takes up about 4 months of the year and is one of the main forestry activities of the charity. This year alone 63,000 trees were planted, with the help of both our corporate and regular volunteers.

Thanks to the generousity of the RFS and The ALA Green Charitable Trust, a budget was set aside for the acquisition of training qualifications for each intern. I saw it fitting to use my budget to gain the necessary qualifications to allow me to be eligible for the RFS Certificate in Forestry, opening up career opportunities as a recognised and qualified forester. Following a discussion with the Heart of England Forest’s forestry officer, we agreed on a mutually beneficial collection of certifications. These included both tree felling licences for trees under and above 380mm (CS31, CS32), two tickets which were necessary for my career progression. To be able to acquire them without any financial hardship was an incredible opportunity and was affirmation of the RFS’ commitment to producing competent interns.

Spraying was another vital ticket to attain as the main forestry task after planting is ensuring this year’s, and the previous two year’s, plantations are free of competition weeds. The aforementioned ticket for safe use of tractor driving has also proved important for driving in posts when fencing, mowing, and transporting planting equipment. As a lot of the summer tasks involved path maintenance and ensuring access routes are clear to promote public access, safe use of a brush cutter (LANTRA), was a useful qualification to acquire and the next logical step for me in making the most of my funding.

Halfway through my internship a job opportunity became available to me from the Heart of England Forest for an Assistant Ranger post. My 8 months working as an RFS intern gave me the confidence and skills to apply for the job, which paid off as I was thrilled to discover I had been successful in my application. I have been working as an Assistant Ranger now for the past month and have found it extremely rewarding. My future in forestry looks promising with many exciting opportunities lined up such as running workshops for woodland and coppice crafts. The summer months will consist of mowing rides, selective thinning of areas of mature natural woodland. Having worked directly on producing a planting plan for a new piece of land, in autumn we will begin gearing up for the next planting season.

The RFS Forestry Roots programme was an extremely useful and valuable experience and I believe that without the opportunities provided by the RFS I would not be in the position I am in today. I would absolutely recommend the programme to any young university or college graduates seeking a future in the forestry sector.

Sam Ozaktanlar

Sam Ozaktanlar has landed a role as Assistant Ranger with the Heart of England Forest after his RFS Forestry Roots post gave him the experience he needed. 

Forestry Roots is made possible by the support of the ALA Green Charitable Trust.