As a new academic year begins, Sparsholt College has welcomed the first cohort of Zookeeper and Aquarist apprentices from zoos, wildlife parks and aquariums all over the country onto campus for their course induction. 

The 12 Zookeeper and Aquarist apprentices are the first Sparsholt College students to join the exciting new Level 3 apprenticeship programme, supported by the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA). The apprenticeship mixes off-the-job training with monitored tasks and taught sessions by leading industry experts across a selection of some of the biggest UK zoos. Students work and earn whilst they learn and gain an unparalleled network of contacts across the sector. 

The initial induction took place at Sparsholt College’s countryside campus – home to the National Zoo Academy. The day included guest lectures from experts on the course, including CEO of BIAZA Jo Judge and Vice President of the Association of British and Irish Wild Animal Keepers (ABWAK) Stephen Woollard. Students also received a tour around the College’s new £2.5 million Animal Health and Welfare Research Centre – a state of the art facility the apprentices will regularly visit on their course. 

Helen Mitchell, Apprenticeship Manager at Sparsholt College Group, has commented on the induction day: “It has been exciting to see the enthusiasm of the new keeper and aquarists at the college undertaking their apprenticeship journey. The college has been developing the programme for some time and it is fantastic to see it underway with a fantastic group of students and supportive employers!”. 

The new apprenticeship standard has proven popular amongst students, with aspiring keepers and aquarists from different collections around the country eager to take part.  

New apprentice Matt from Beale Wildlife Park, Berkshire, said: “It’s my dream to eventually become a zookeeper – I’m fascinated about what we’re able to do around conservation in zoos. The apprenticeship will help me gain experience and learn lots about the animals, and it’s great to have experts like Stephen Woollard teaching on the course who have a lot of experience in the industry, that can pass on their knowledge to me and my role at Beale Park.” 

Working at Drusilla’s Wildlife Park, Brighton, new apprentice Morgan said: “I’ve always had a real passion for animals, and doing this apprenticeship gives you the real learning experience alongside the hands-on practice. Having the other apprentices here is also really useful to help gain more knowledge – it’s nice to have that small community to see how other zoos work as well.” 

Students will log their progress and activities by creating a live digital portfolio, which will double as a working CV after the completion of the course and can be used as a key tool in future career progression. 

Sparsholt has unrivalled and longstanding experience of teaching zookeepers and aquarists, working closely with BIAZA for nearly two decades to deliver gold-standard training courses such as the Diploma in Management of Zoos and Aquariums (DMZAA). The National Zoo Academy combines the latest research and best practice into a suite of teaching materials for all aspiring keepers and aquarists across Britain and Ireland. 

Find out more about the National Zoo Academy and our respected Zookeeper and Aquarist training options here. 

Applications are still open!   

If you’re still interested in joining us in September 2021, you can apply now on our website You can also email any questions to or