Euan Sneddon: Assistant Woodland Officer


At the age when many of his fellow pupils were preparing for college or university, Euan Sneddon from Newton Stewart was already thinking about the world of work. He joined what was then Forestry Commission Scotland to do an apprenticeship in trees and timber, with support from SRUC Barony.

Euan said: “Ever since I can remember, I’ve always loved to use the forest recreationally through mountain biking, hill walking, running and fishing. When I saw the apprenticeship advertised I knew I couldn’t let it pass me by. I knew this was an opportunity to get out into the forest I loved as a child and give something back so more people like me could enjoy it in the same way.

“To end up working for the organisation that looks after Scotland’s national forests at 17 was a great experience and gave me the confidence to push on. The apprenticeship is a great way to learn while you work, and helps you make sense of what you’re doing. For example, you look at best practice in different areas of trees and timber, but being on site and doing the work brings it to life.”

Clearly Euan was doing something right because he was soon nominated for Lantra Scotland’s ALBAS and went on to win the trees and timber category at the final back in March, which had a big impact on the young forester.

He said: “It was great to go along to the Dunblane Hydro as a finalist, but actually winning an ALBAS award on the night was a brilliant experience. It’s given me more recognition within the industry and I’m proud to have it on my CV as well.”

Since winning the ALBAS and completing his apprenticeship, Euan has landed a role as an Assistant Woodland Officer in what is now Forestry and Land Scotland, working with landowners and farmers applying for felling permissions or grants for new woodland creation projects. This has given him a deeper insight into the relationship between forestry operators and landowners.

He said: “I think these days farmers are looking to diversify more, and forestry is a popular choice. My job is a mixture of reading through applications and contacting agents and landowners, as well as getting outside for compliance checks and meeting people onsite, which breaks the day up nicely. I find it really satisfying when an application has been successful and the landowner gets what they’re looking for.”

Euan is also well aware of the increasing need to tackle climate change.

“When I first got involved in forestry, I didn’t realise how important trees were in lowering carbon. I know now that forestry can provide a decent income for farmers while helping to save the planet.

“The Government publishes annual tree planting targets which we help meet, so it’s really good to know that the work you are doing is having a wider impact. I’ve learnt a lot more about the bigger picture in the last few years.”

As with many industries across the rural sector, forestry has been affected by the recent Covid-19 outbreak, which Euan has experienced first-hand.

He said: “When the lockdown came in, the whole industry was in limbo for a couple of months. Our office closed and there were no site visits, but things seemed to pick up pretty quickly after that. Most of the work we do is outdoors over large areas, so social distancing is much easier. There are restrictions on the number of people who can work in the office, but onsite it’s really just about keeping our distance and making sure equipment is properly sanitised.”

At the age of 19, Euan has plenty of time to decide on his future, but he already has firm plans.

He said: “I think the most important thing for me right now is to keep learning. I’d like to go on and get my HNC and eventually get a promotion to the Woodland Officer role. I’m very keen to stay with Forestry and Land Scotland and work my way up. There’s so much to learn in this industry and I’m enjoying picking up tips and ideas from my colleagues."