This year, Sparsholt College apprentices Jack Steer and Harry Redsull are some of the first students in the UK to complete and pass the intensive Underkeeper End Point Assessment (EPA), highlighting the excellence of their work and their ability to meet the needs of the gamekeeping industry.

Harry Redsull achieved the accolade on 4 September 2023, making him the first Underkeeper Apprentice to pass the EPA in the country this year. Jack Steer passed his on 2 October 2023, coming third.

The assessors involved in Jack and Harry’s EPAs, both of which were delivered at the Sparsholt Campus , stated that they were extremely impressed with the hard work that went into the trainees’ assessments and their breadth and depth of knowledge, which was evident in their reports.

Gemma Bawcutt, Apprenticeship Mentor for the Underkeeper Apprenticeship programme at Sparsholt College, commented: ‘We are so proud of Harry and Jack and all the hard work they put in, enabling them to pass their EPA this year. It also wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing support and help from all the staff involved, within and outside of the department – it was a tremendous team effort.’

Underkeeper End Point Assessment: What is involved?

The Underkeeper Apprenticeship programme at Sparsholt College gives participants the opportunity to gain valuable gamekeeping training and qualifications, while working in a paid job on an estate, under the supervision of a designated keeper. The apprentices are also required to spend at least 20% of their time ‘off the job’ engaging in college learning at Sparsholt.

As part of the programme, an Underkeeper apprentice needs to become competent in gamekeeping skills, habitat management, pest control, and related animal husbandry, all in support of the estate’s shooting enterprise.

Therefore, once apprentices have successfully completed the course portfolio, which highlights skills and behaviours, linked to the industry, and the mandatory additional qualifications, they then need to pass the final EPA to certify their accomplishment.

The EPA is intensive, requiring the apprentice to be examined on the key practical skills and competencies of the qualification. They are:

  • ATV (All-Terrain Vehicle) handling and maintenance
  • Cable Restraints, according to the codes of best practice
  • Operating and maintaining brush cutters
  • Tractor driving
  • Chainsaw handling/maintenance
  • Shot gun and rifle handling and maintenance

After completing the practical elements, the assessor then holds a professional discussion for an hour and a half with each apprentice candidate.

The EPA is also regarded as an effective indicator of an apprentice’s employability due to the fact that the programme has been written by an employer-led group and endorsed by the National Gamekeepers Organisation for Lantra (the awarding body for the apprenticeship). This ensures the standard of the EPA reflects the needs of the industry.

Apprentice Profile – Harry Redsull

  • Harry Redsull was the first Underkeeper apprentice to pass the EPA this year in England on 4 September 2023.
  • He completed his apprenticeship while working as an Underkeeper for the Forest of Bere, an estate over 1,400 acres in Hampshire.
  • As an Underkeeper at the Forest of Bere Estate, Harry’s daily duties, although varying throughout the year, could include: trapping and snaring, maintaining the well-being of the birds, assisting the beaters and placing shot birds into a chiller on shoot day.
  • Harry said: ‘I would like to thank both the estate and college for all the help and support I received during the course. I have learnt so much, which will now benefit me in my future career within the industry.’

Apprentice Profile – Jack Steer

  • Underkeeper apprentice Jack Steer passed the EPA on 2 October 2023.
  • He completed his apprenticeship while working at Castle Hill, an estate approximately 5,100 acres, based in Devon.
  • As an underkeeper on Castle Hill Estate, Jack works alongside the Head-keeper to run one of the main beats.
  • Jack was one of the finalists, out of 120 nominees from across England and Northern Ireland, in the inaugural ‘Land-Based & Environment Learner of the Year Awards 2023’ for the category of ‘Environment, Conservation, Game and Wildlife’. Following a rigorous judging process conducted by industry and sector experts, the finalists were recognised for their outstanding achievements at an awards evening on the 22 November 2023 at Reaseheath College, a land-based college based in Cheshire.
  • Jack commented: ‘I’m glad I have completed the apprenticeship and I’m now looking forward to seeing what more I can achieve within the industry.’