Estate Worker

The Job and What's Involved

Estate workers help to maintain and manage the environment for the benefit of people and wildlife. This can involve the management of a variety of different habitats, including woodland, grassland, wetland and heathland, and also the maintenance of facilities for public access and recreation.

The work will vary, depending on the habitat being worked on. Examples include:

Woodlands

  • Felling trees using hand or chainsaws.
  • Processing felled timber.
  • Coppicing by cutting trees on a regular basis after allowing them to regrow.
  • Planting new trees to create new or replace old woodland.
  • Removing unwanted plants and shrubs.
  • Creating habitats for birds, mammals, butterflies and insects, etc.

Grassland

  • Removing vegetation with various cutting equipment ranging from strimmers to a tractor or by burning.
  • Managing vegetation by grazing using sheep, cattle or even rabbits to improve biodiversity.

Wetland

  • Managing water levels, e.g. by maintaining water level infrastructure.
  • Cutting vegetation, including reed beds.
  • Creating areas for birds and other wildlife.

Heathland

  • Removing scrub by grazing using sheep or cattle, or using manual or mechanical techniques.
  • Burning or cutting the vegetation to promote a diversity of species and age structure in heather.
  • Cutting and spraying bracken and other unwanted vegetation.
  • Applying seed to promote restoration of heathland vegetation.

Other work may involve

  • Managing and maintaining boundaries, including dry stone walling, hedge laying and fencing.
  • Providing and repairing access points (gates, bollards and stiles).
  • Building and maintaining site furniture and other structures, such as access paths, benches, and bird/bat boxes.
  • Control of non-native, invasive species.

Estate workers normally work around 40 hours a week. Weekend work and late evenings may be required.

The work varies, depending on the seasons and the habitat being maintained, e.g. most woodland management takes place in the autumn and winter, whilst grassland management is undertaken in spring and summer.

The work takes place outdoors, in all weathers, in a wide range of countryside and even urban environments. The work can sometimes be physically demanding and can involve bending, lifting and carrying. A variety of hand tools and other equipment are used, such as chainsaws, strimmers and tractors.

Safety is important, and estate workers wear protective equipment, including boots with protective toecaps and strong gloves. Specialist equipment is worn when using chainsaws, strimmers and sprayers.

It is likely that the job will involve working at a number of different sites, so a full driving licence is beneficial. Certain jobs, such as dry stone walling, may involve some travel, and possibly staying away from home from time to time.

New estate workers may earn around £14,000 a year. With more experience, estate workers may earn up to £22,500 a year and progress into supervisory positions.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are approximately 3,250 organisations within the UK, employing about 23,000 people. In addition, it is estimated that there are around 200,000 volunteers working in conservation. These figures continue to grow each year and opportunities can be found in rural and urban areas all over the UK. However, competition for paid work can be intense and experience is essential.

Chances of employment will be greatly enhanced for those with some experience, through volunteering. Having certificates in the use of some of the specialist equipment, such as chainsaws, sprayers and strimmers, and in tractor driving may also help.

Jobs can be found with local government and national agencies, including Natural England, local council countryside services departments and the Environment Agency. Charitable trusts, such as The Wildlife Trusts, BTCV and The National Trust also have paid and voluntary positions.

Vacancies are advertised directly through the local or national press and on company websites. There are also a number of countryside careers' websites and publications, such as the Countryside Job Service, that list job vacancies.

Some opportunities may be available for self-employment, especially in specialist areas, such as dry stone walling.

Education and Training

There are no set entry requirements. However, many employers expect candidates to have a qualification, such as a Higher National Certificate or Diploma (HNC/D) and some work experience, possibly from volunteering.

Qualifications that would provide a good grounding in conservation include:

  • HNC/D in environmental conservation, countryside management, and leisure management
  • Level 2 and 3 Diploma in work-based environmental conservation (previously NVQ)

Check with individual colleges for specific entry requirements, as these will vary. Candidates need to show evidence of practical work experience and an interest in the subject.

For people intending to be self-employed, it is also important to learn the skills necessary to run a small business.

It may be possible to enter this career through an appropriate Apprenticeship scheme.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

The Diploma in environmental and land-based studies may also be useful. This new qualification for 14- to 19-year-olds focuses on practical skills, knowledge and understanding in environmental and land-based studies and may prepare people for a career, an apprenticeship or further study at college or university. For more information visit www.diplomaelbs.co.uk and http://yp.direct.gov.uk/diplomas/subjects/

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training is often undertaken on the job and may include in-house training courses. Organisations such as the BTCV offer a range of practical training courses throughout the UK. Vocational qualifications can be studied through local colleges and other training providers, and it may be possible to join one of a number of heritage skills projects currently supported by the Big Lottery Fund.

A list of providers of specialist equipment training, including chainsaw use and tractor driving, can be obtained through Lantra Awards and City and Guilds NPTC.

The Dry Stone Walling Association (DSWA) operates a specialist national assessment scheme for skills in dry stone walling. Training and assessment for the DSWA awards is arranged through local DSWA branches, and The College of the Peak, in Derbyshire, runs Walls for the Future, an accredited training scheme in dry stone walling.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An estate worker should:

  • Have a practical knowledge of countryside management techniques.
  • Be able to use and maintain a range of tools.
  • Be able to follow health and safety practices and procedures.
  • Be prepared to work outside in all conditions.
  • Have good communication skills.
  • Have good interpersonal skills.
  • Be able to communicate with members of the public effectively and efficiently.
  • Be able to work alone or as part of a team.
  • Have good problem-solving skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience and relevant qualifications, it is possible to progress to supervisory or other conservation positions, such as countryside officer or a property, estate or countryside manager. The career structure will vary depending on the size of the organisation. It may be necessary to move to an alternative employer in order to progress.

There are some opportunities for self-employment. This might include specialising in areas such as dry stone walling or woodland maintenance, or expanding to include other areas of work, such as landscape gardening. Those in self-employment will need to build a good reputation and develop their skills to increase their workload.

Get Further Information

BTCV, Sedum House, Mallard Way,
Doncaster DN4 8DB
Tel: 01302 388883
Website: www.btcv.org.uk

City & Guilds NPTC, Building 500,
Abbey Park, Stareton, Warwickshire CV8 2LY
Tel: 024 7685 7300
Website: www.nptc.org.uk

College of the Peak
Tel: 01629 824765
Website: www.collegeofthepeak.org.uk

Countryside Management Association,
Writtle College, Lordship Road, Writtle,
Chelmsford, Essex CM1 3RR
Tel: 01245 424116
Website: www.countrysidemanagement.org.uk

Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain (DSWA),
Lane Farm, Crooklands, Milnthorpe, Cumbria LA7 7NH
Tel: 01539 567953
Website: www.dswa.org.uk

Landex. Website: www.landex.org.uk

Lantra, Lantra House, Stoneleigh Park,
Coventry, Warwickshire CV8 2LG
Tel: 0845 707 8007
Websites: www.lantra.co.uk www.lantracoursefinder.co.uk and www.afuturein.com

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