Katie and Bryon to test drive pilot ranger scheme

Katie Dougan, from Fort William is one of the first students to achieve a Ranger Placement.

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Students from Skye and Fort William are the first to secure trainee seasonal ranger posts as part of a collaboration between West Highland College UHI and NatureScot.

The pilot Ranger Placement Scheme is a progression for students completing the popular NQ Countryside Skills with Ranger Training course based at the College’s Fort William campus.

Created under the NatureScot Programme for Youth Employment the scheme initially sees two two posts at National Nature Reserves (NNR) across the North and South Highlands with another two to follow.

Bryon Ford from Skye.

Bryon Ford from Skye and Fort William’s Katie Dougan welcomed the NatureScot opportunities as a massive step in furthering their career ambitions.

‘This is a great opportunity to continue my personal development and the next chapter of my career change,’ said Bryon.

‘I’m stoked about the opportunity to work across the varying habitats of the Highland’s National Nature Reserves.’

Whilst Katie tells us: ‘I think this placement 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.’

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 (formerly Scottish Natural Heritage).

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.

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 and sharing their knowledge and expertise in looking after some of Scotland’s most precious habitats and helping people enjoy them responsibly.’

Placements commence in June 2021, with students based at an area office and working with NNR staff at a number of reserves.