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Environmental Conservation Training

OATS is committed to training and maintaining a skilled and dedicated workforce to ensure outdoor access infrastructure projects and nature conservation can be delivered year on year.

We are a Scottish Qualification Authority Approved Centre – just like a college or other trainer – and we provide training leading to the SVQ in Environmental Conservation at Levels 2 and 3 for people interested in working in the practical conservation and upland path construction industry.

There are two ways we provide training – on our own schemes, and for other organisations.

We are currently part-way through taking six people to SVQ level 3, to enable them to be effective team leaders and mangers of path-building and other environmental schemes.

We have just completed delivery of SVQ training to level 2 for six trainees on a path-building scheme on MacGillicuddy’s Reeks in Ireland.

Our biggest training effort over the last five years has been through The Mountains and The People (TMPTP), our £5m+ path-building scheme for Scotland’s two national parks. A total of 38 people took part in the programme leading to SVQ level 2 qualification. Many of those who took part subsequently took up roles with contractors working on the project, which was one of the objectives of the scheme.

Our practical conservation training includes upland and lowland path work, fencing, dyking, habitat management, surveying, health and safety, first aid, mountain awareness, environmental good practice, team working and communication skills.

It also includes work-experience placements and talks from related organisations which provide a wider context to the practical training provided.

Our next in-house training offering will be as part of up-coming projects currently under discussion. For further information about our training or to be kept up to date on places we may have to offer, email admin@outdooraccesstrustforscotland.org.uk

Hear from three of our SVQ2 students and where they are now:

Training with OATS got Craig Paterson out of the factory and workshop to a career where he feels he belongs, working in mountain path-building.

Craig, 29, trained as a blacksmith and metal fabricator, but always loved the countryside and in 2016 he won a place on the six-month SVQ level 2 course in Environmental Conservation with OATS.

He said the course opened doors, allowing him to meet conservation workers ranging from national park rangers to estate head keepers. Each day was varied, with new experiences: “It opened a whole new world to all of us,” he says.

Originally from Renfrew, his favourite work is high on the hill, such as eight months spent on the summit approach path on Mount Keen, Scotland’s most easterly Munro.

After finishing the SVQ Craig started work for McGowans contractors, immediately doing upland path construction and landscaping – skills he’d learned on the course. He’s still with the company and is now completing the SVQ level 3 work-based qualification in Environmental Conservation aimed at people managing teams and supervising sites.

“The Level 2 course was a big confidence booster,” he said. “Through it I found my niche and I’m definitely in a place I always wanted to be and never thought I would be.

“I had found something that I could enjoy for the rest of my life”.

Gill Walker is carving a successful career in conservation and recreation management after completing her SVQ Level 2 in Environmental Conservation on an OATS training scheme.

As a trainee, she worked on path sites including the Cobbler, and completed work placements with the National Trust for Scotland, RSPB and the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority (LLTNPA).

Since March 2018 Gill, 33, has worked for Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) and is currently a visitor services supervisor in the Queen Elizabeth Forest park.

After finishing her SVQ in 2016 she worked as a seasonal ranger with LLTNPA, then for FLS’s predecessor, Forestry Commission Scotland, focusing on visitor engagement and recreation maintenance, including path management.

She’s since completed a distance-learning HNC in countryside and environmental management and says her SVQ with OATS was a major factor in boosting her progress and confidence.

“It helped me to get a thorough understanding of many different and varied career options within land management. Having the opportunity to test the water with these placements helped me to find where my strengths lie,” she said.

During her SVQ Gill, from Balfron in Stirlingshire, was runner-up in an award scheme for trainees in environmental conservation, and was asked to be a part of an event to encourage more women into land-based careers.

Ryan Hamilton has gone from being a call-centre worker to running his own environmental contractor firm, thanks to the SVQ level 2 training course with OATS.

After taking the course in 2015 he is working full-time on hills such as Beinn Vane in Arrochar, and employing six people.

Ryan worked for other contractors for a year after finishing his SVQ, then took the plunge and set up his own business. It has delivered contracts for OATS’s The Mountains and the People project (TMTP), the Nevis Partnership, Forestry Commission Scotland, RSPB and Scottish Wildlife Trust.

“I’ve never been short of ambition,” he said. “Once I’d found the right path I knew I wanted to set up my own company in this industry. Through the skills I learned on the course and working with other path teams I believed I had more to offer.”

Ryan has taken on other OATS SVQ trainees and says the course provided him with “great opportunities” and the chance to develop personal interests.

He loves working with TMTP volunteers, “people with a love of their local area and who value mountains”.

And his experience has rekindled his own love of the outdoors. Ryan, 34, from Tighnabruaich in Cowal, was a country lover when he was younger but had “slipped away from it.”

“The course relit my imagination to go and do it … I have really fallen back in love with the mountains and the outdoors in the last four years,” he said.

+ The right place: Craig Paterson

Training with OATS got Craig Paterson out of the factory and workshop to a career where he feels he belongs, working in mountain path-building.

Craig, 29, trained as a blacksmith and metal fabricator, but always loved the countryside and in 2016 he won a place on the six-month SVQ level 2 course in Environmental Conservation with OATS.

He said the course opened doors, allowing him to meet conservation workers ranging from national park rangers to estate head keepers. Each day was varied, with new experiences: “It opened a whole new world to all of us,” he says.

Originally from Renfrew, his favourite work is high on the hill, such as eight months spent on the summit approach path on Mount Keen, Scotland’s most easterly Munro.

After finishing the SVQ Craig started work for McGowans contractors, immediately doing upland path construction and landscaping – skills he’d learned on the course. He’s still with the company and is now completing the SVQ level 3 work-based qualification in Environmental Conservation aimed at people managing teams and supervising sites.

“The Level 2 course was a big confidence booster,” he said. “Through it I found my niche and I’m definitely in a place I always wanted to be and never thought I would be.

“I had found something that I could enjoy for the rest of my life”.

+ Career booster: Gill Walker

Gill Walker is carving a successful career in conservation and recreation management after completing her SVQ Level 2 in Environmental Conservation on an OATS training scheme.

As a trainee, she worked on path sites including the Cobbler, and completed work placements with the National Trust for Scotland, RSPB and the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority (LLTNPA).

Since March 2018 Gill, 33, has worked for Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) and is currently a visitor services supervisor in the Queen Elizabeth Forest park.

After finishing her SVQ in 2016 she worked as a seasonal ranger with LLTNPA, then for FLS’s predecessor, Forestry Commission Scotland, focusing on visitor engagement and recreation maintenance, including path management.

She’s since completed a distance-learning HNC in countryside and environmental management and says her SVQ with OATS was a major factor in boosting her progress and confidence.

“It helped me to get a thorough understanding of many different and varied career options within land management. Having the opportunity to test the water with these placements helped me to find where my strengths lie,” she said.

During her SVQ Gill, from Balfron in Stirlingshire, was runner-up in an award scheme for trainees in environmental conservation, and was asked to be a part of an event to encourage more women into land-based careers.

+ In Business: Ryan Hamilton

Ryan Hamilton has gone from being a call-centre worker to running his own environmental contractor firm, thanks to the SVQ level 2 training course with OATS.

After taking the course in 2015 he is working full-time on hills such as Beinn Vane in Arrochar, and employing six people.

Ryan worked for other contractors for a year after finishing his SVQ, then took the plunge and set up his own business. It has delivered contracts for OATS’s The Mountains and the People project (TMTP), the Nevis Partnership, Forestry Commission Scotland, RSPB and Scottish Wildlife Trust.

“I’ve never been short of ambition,” he said. “Once I’d found the right path I knew I wanted to set up my own company in this industry. Through the skills I learned on the course and working with other path teams I believed I had more to offer.”

Ryan has taken on other OATS SVQ trainees and says the course provided him with “great opportunities” and the chance to develop personal interests.

He loves working with TMTP volunteers, “people with a love of their local area and who value mountains”.

And his experience has rekindled his own love of the outdoors. Ryan, 34, from Tighnabruaich in Cowal, was a country lover when he was younger but had “slipped away from it.”

“The course relit my imagination to go and do it … I have really fallen back in love with the mountains and the outdoors in the last four years,” he said.

For a first-hand account of life as a trainee check out The Mountains and Me blog  produced by Gill Walker, one of our 2016 Lomond trainees and have a look at the video below made under our old name, Cairngorms Outdoor Access Trust.

Lots of training videos can be found on Vimeo – https://vimeo.com/user62076747/videos