Several young people are starting their careers with one of the Westcountry’s largest land and property management businesses through its commitment to providing apprenticeships and traineeships.
For more than a decade, Clinton Devon Estates has worked hard to increase opportunities for young people and currently has five apprentices or trainees working across almost all of its departments including agriculture, forestry, game keeping, land management, finance, and business.
Land and property management businesses can play an important part in equipping the next generation and plugging Britain’s skills gap. With their variety of departments, large rural estates are well placed to provide training opportunities and help provide similar opportunities for those who go to university and those who don’t, a key aim of Apprenticeships and Skills Minister the RT Hon Anne Milton MP.
Offering apprenticeships and traineeships is a core part of the ethos of the 22nd generation family business, which revolves around enhancing the local community, contributing to the local economy and a commitment to supporting future generations through its business activities.
“No one goes on forever, so we need to be training up the next generation – morally, this is also the right thing to do,” says Graham Vanstone, head of human resources at Clinton Devon Estates, which comprises 25,000 acres of land, 30 tenanted farms, commercial and residential properties across its North and East Devon estates. “When apprenticeship starts fell a number of years ago, we were glad to be bucking that trend and increasing apprenticeships.”
Recent research by the British Chamber of Commerce as well as the Open University has revealed that the UK is in the midst of a growing skills shortage with a large number of firms struggling to find the right staff. Senior managers at Clinton Devon Estates agree that businesses have a duty to do something about this and apprentices bring “immeasurable” value to the workplace often increasing productivity and reinvigorating a business.
“Apprentices bring a fresh, young perspective and new ideas into the workplace, while also bringing a willingness to learn and an enthusiasm which rubs off on longstanding members of staff,” adds Graham.
For 20-year-old former farm hand Dom Dorling, from Exmouth, his 18-month forestry apprenticeship with the estate ignited a passion for a career he now considers his calling. “I’d always been interested in forestry and when I started it felt like a natural fit for me,” recalls Dom whose apprenticeship led to a permanent position. “I was treated like I was one of the staff straight away which made settling in to a new role easier. I gained all the practical skills I needed to be able to fulfil the role independently and felt totally prepared when the full-time position became available. The opportunity the apprenticeship gave me has been absolutely amazing.”
Katie Turner, 20, who lives near Sidmouth, was offered a permanent position with the business after completing a one-year business administration apprenticeship in 2017. Joining the estate team represented a complete change of direction for Katie who was working in the kitchen of a nearby pub following a catering course at Exeter College. She admits she’d probably still be there had it not been for the opportunity to side-step.
“While I was working at the pub, I started weighing up my options and thought, I have good organisational skills, I wonder how I could put them to use,” she explains. “I didn’t have any experience to be able to do the job, but learning on the job was invaluable. I was never treated like an apprentice; there was never a job too big. This meant I felt completely equipped to step into the permanent role.”