College awarded for preparing the way for foresters of tomorrow

An exciting partnership between Borders College and Tilhill Forestry saw both organisations win the Anna Murray Partnership Working Award at the recent ALBAS Awards for their inspiring work delivering exciting forestry-based educational training and experiences to secondary school pupils.

By Kevin Janiak
Monday, 28th March 2022, 5:26 pm
Lecturer Garry Dickson, Mary Thomson and Tilhill’s Dan Wilson at the awards.

The partnership aims to inspire young people to become the new generation of foresters to plant, maintain and manage forests.

The judges were most impressed by the high degree of partnership and communication working between Tilhill and Borders college, with the judging panel commenting: “The application clearly demonstrated benefits to both parties. This partnership looks like it has the potential to develop those benefits and have a positive effect for both moving forward.”

The partnership saw Dan Wilson, business development manager at Tilhill, and previous graduate student, take on the task of being actively involved in binging through new talent with Borders College.

Sign up to our daily The Southern Reporter Today newsletter

Dan told the Southern: “When I joined Tilhill in 2018 there was a lot of discussions around our industry having an aging workforce and there was a need to bring new talent into the sector.

“A meeting with former Borders College curriculum learning manager for rural skills, Mary Thomson, helped build on that and her enthusiasm and drive was infectious.

“We came to an understanding that what Tilhill had to offer by means of site visits and examples of forest operations would be of use to creating an NPA level qualification for high school pupils wishing to explore the industry.”​

He added: “Working with Garry Dickson of Borders College we reviewed the syllabus and learning criteria to see how we could utilise ongoing operations close to the college to give the students a taste of the industry.”

The Borders College Rural Skills National Progression Award (NPA) at SCQF level 5 is a credible starting place for candidates pursuing a future in one of the major land-based industries.

Candidates will gain knowledge of how a rural business enterprise operates, and an insight into one of eight particular areas of rural skills: agriculture, animal care, equine studies, estate skills, fishery management, forestry, gamekeeping, and horticulture.

The forestry option delivered at Borders College provides an opportunity to work at college and partner sites, and to engage with representatives from the sector.

Dan added: “It’s been a lot of fun and a good way to test my own knowledge against some sharp young minds who always keep me on my toes and will always ask the unexpected questions.

“There has never been a more exciting time to join forestry and I hope that Borders College and Tilhill can inspire more collaborations throughout Scotland and the UK to open the door for many more young minds to come and make their mark on the industry.”

Current college curriculum learning manager for rural skills, Andrew Johnson, said: “Forestry makes a substantial contribution to the rural economy at both national and local levels. We have added this NPA award option for our schools’ students in recent years.

“The partnership working with Tillhill has been invaluable with this course allowing us access to forestry sites, machines and their staff expertise”