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Forestry Commission Wales apprentice Caroline Riches has won a national learner’s award after turning her back on the world of finance to graft in the woodlands of Wales.
Caroline, who lives in Radyr, Cardiff with her young son, Brannon, was named Lifelong Learner of the Year by Lantra, the Sector Skills Council for land-based and environmental industries.
The annual awards ceremony recognises the most inspirational people working in the environmental and land-based industries in Wales.
Caroline joined FC Wales in 2009 as an apprentice forest craftsperson at the age of 29, having previously worked as a nursery school assistant and then a financial planning assistant.
Instead of wrestling with balance sheets and juggling accounts, she quickly became proficient in using bow saws, axes, loppers and other tools of the trade in the forest.
Her attitude towards training and dedication to her job was recognised and Caroline now has a permanent position as a forest craftsperson working in the woodlands of South Wales.
Caroline said, “Joining Forestry Commission Wales as an apprentice has allowed me to obtain the skills I need to do my job and build a successful career in forestry.
“Forestry offers a variety of opportunities across a broad range of professions and it’s so satisfying to be part of a team helping to improve the environment for the benefit of everybody.”
Caroline, who once also did voluntary work for Caerphilly Countryside Service, was nominated for the award by FC Wales’s Foundation Modern Apprentice Scheme Manager, Hayley Evans.
Hayley said, “Caroline is a fine example of a life long learner pursuing her chosen career in a largely male dominated arena and deserves credit and recognition for her success.”
FC Wales set up the Foundation Modern Apprentice Scheme in response to a skills shortage in the forestry sector.
Caroline collected a cheque for £200 and a Welsh crystal paper weight from MP for Brecon and Radnor and spokesman for agriculture and rural affairs, Roger Williams, at the ceremony held in the Lantra offices at the Royal Welsh Showground’s Winter Fair on November 29.
Another forest craftsperson, 23-year-old Glenn Williams from Llangollen, made it a double celebration for FC Wales when he was awarded a Certificate of Achievement at the ceremony.
Lantra’s National Director for Wales, Kevin Thomas, said, “Caroline and Glenn highlight how apprenticeships can have a positive impact on your career at any age.
“We hope they will continue to develop their skills and inspire others to think about the benefits apprenticeships can offer.”
Caption: Lantra Lifelong Learner of the Year Caroline Riches at work in the forest.
NOTES TO EDITORS
About 14 per cent of Wales is covered by woodlands. Of this, 38% (126,000 hectares/311,000 acres) is owned by the Welsh Assembly Government.
Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Assembly Government’s department of forestry and manages these woodlands on its behalf.
More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on www.forestry.gov.uk/wales
The Welsh Land-based Learner of the Year Awards are sponsored by Farming Connect, DCELLS, Welsh Assembly Government, NFU Cymru, Countryside Council for Wales and Farmers Union Wales.
For more information about the Forestry Commission Wales Foundation Modern Apprentice Scheme, contact Hayley Evans on 01938 557420, mobile 07810 814555.
Details of future opportunities for placements on the Foundation Modern Apprentice scheme will be advertised on Forestry Commission Wales's website, www.forestry.gov.uk/wales.
Press office contact: Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922, email email@example.com