When I finished school, I didn’t want to do A levels so I looked for something else I could do instead of staying in an academic college or sixth form. I found that there were agricultural colleges that offered vocational courses. Just talking to people helped me decide on Merrist Wood College. Especially for tree work, it’s really well known, in fact it was one of the first colleges that offered arboriculture courses, so I’d heard through word of mouth about its great reputation. The campus itself is amazing, its 400 acres, and for arboriculture we’ve got some amazing trees that we get to climb and study. It’s definitely lived up to expectations and I’ve really enjoyed my experience so far.
The teachers are great. It’s a very supportive environment and the teachers have a lot of experience and an amazing wealth of knowledge. It’s quite a small class, there’s five of us, we all get along and it’s been easy to make friends. For me personally, the small class sizes make for a better learning environment. You get more time with the teachers and I’ve benefited from that.
When I finish the course, I’m more than likely going to seek employment as a climber for a tree company. The course has helped me work towards that. The tutors have a lot of good contacts and if you’re stuck for ideas they definitely point you in the right direction. They know the good and the better companies to work for and which areas you might want to go into.
The college’s reputation for arboriculture looks good on the CV. Historically it was one of the only colleges that offered the course, so a lot of people that did go to the college are now in industry and they recognise you’re at the college they used to be at. I’ve found that people say, “oh yeah I went there, I remember those tutors.”
Courses like this are important for getting into the industry. The course has a good blend of practical and theory, which has been really beneficial. I do enjoy the theory side but for me it would have been lacking if I’d just done A Levels and missed out on the practical experience. The split between practical and theory does vary from week to week. Some days we do lectures, take notes or get on with assignment work and sometimes we will be planning and undertaking practical tasks like pruning or removing some trees.
Getting to climb trees has been the highlight of the course so far. It’s been nice to see everyone progress and get better at it. None of us had any experience with it before we came to college, so everyone was in exactly the same boat. We were all terrible to start with and then gradually got better. The course can be hard work, especially the practical side like climbing trees, but for the right person I would definitely recommend this course.