Gabriella is a second-year Level 2 Arboriculture Apprentice at RHS Garden Bridgewater
Before applying for the RHS Arboriculture Apprenticeship, I worked as a Research Assistant at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, while finishing the corrections to my doctoral thesis. Although I find scientific research engaging and fascinating, I knew that continuing in academics beyond my PhD was not for me, so I turned my efforts into finding a career that would enable me to work outdoors and keep active.
I became interested in the care and maintenance of trees during my time as a volunteer ranger with the National Trust at Runnymede and Ankerwycke. The lead ranger was incredibly knowledgeable about the trees on the property, and it sparked my interest to learn more about them.
I was a little apprehensive about applying for an RHS Apprenticeship as I am older than the average apprentice. Some places have an age limit for applying to apprentice programmes, so I’m lucky that the RHS doesn’t.
I love working outdoors. For me, it was one of the major deciding factors in pursuing a career in arboriculture. Now that I’ve started my apprenticeship, I’ve discovered that I really enjoy tree climbing – it’s a unique type of work that not many people get to experience, though I’ll admit it’s probably not for everyone. Learning to identify and name different species of trees is also a very satisfying experience.
My first few months have been enjoyable – something of an adjustment curve, particularly on the physical side, as I had not been particularly active during the previous year or so due to the lockdown. The Arborist team at RHS Garden Bridgewater have been very welcoming and willing to share their knowledge and experience in the arboriculture industry. They are patient when I take a little bit longer to get a task done while I’m learning.
I’m now qualified to undertake ground-based and aerial tree works, and next up, I will be working safely from a mobile elevated working platform (MEWP). The support I’ve had has been brilliant, both from Myerscough College, which runs my theoretical learning and assessment and from the RHS.
For anyone considering applying for an apprenticeship at the RHS, who is a fan of working outdoors and doesn’t mind hard work, I’d say go for it. A passion for something, whether it be horticulture or arboriculture, is an absolute must. An apprenticeship gives you the chance to learn the practical skills necessary for a career in that field – having experience beforehand is not a requirement. The first time I climbed a tree was during my interview for the job.
As a woman in arboriculture, I’m something of a minority (for example, I’m the only female apprentice in my group at college), but it hasn’t stopped me from pursuing a career in this industry. I’ve never been afraid of getting stuck in, and my colleagues have been very supportive and helpful throughout my apprenticeship.
This is just the starting point for my career change, and I’m thrilled to have the chance to undertake my learning at Bridgewater. With any luck, this is the beginning of my career working with trees.