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Former Bath College students are playing a crucial role in ensuring families across the south west continue to have an uninterrupted electricity supply.

Seven arboriculture students from the Somer Valley Campus work around-the-clock helping with the trimming and felling of trees to ensure the safety and reliability of power lines.

They are all employed by Hi-Line tree surgeons; which has contracts with Western Power Distribution to keep vegetation clear of its electricity infrastructure.

Hi-Line’s Human Resources and Training Manager Kirsty McNicol said the ex-students worked hard to minimise any potential problems across the south west from Bristol to Dorset to Cornwall.

She said: “We employ 230 people and 80 per cent of our work is for Western Power which means the ex-students play a crucial role in keeping electricity at people’s fingertips.

“We are called out at all hours of the day and night as trees adjacent to overhead power lines can be a public safety risk, especially in severe weather.

“So when we look for new employees it’s crucial we find the best people for the job. We don’t want to start our training from scratch, we want people who know the basics and have that initial qualification.

“Employees who have both the theory and practical experience are invaluable to us; that’s why we know we can rely on Bath College. We’re lucky to have such a good relationship with the College.”

Gary Sims is one of Bath College’s former students now working at Hi-Line having completed his Level 2 NVQ in Arboriculture in 2009.

The 30-year-old from Paulton, who works as a climbing arborist, said: “I’d always wanted to get into arboriculture since I saw a large tree being dismantled in the school grounds. I just remember being impressed with all the harnesses, ropes and chainsaws.

“After school I started working elsewhere doing something completely different, but it was always in the back of my mind, I never forgot what I had seen.

“I decided to go back to College in my 20s and I really enjoyed the course; I learnt so much and couldn’t wait to put it into practice.

“It’s a great job, you cannot beat working outside, the job satisfaction is huge and I get to see lots of new places, often from great heights!”

Ed Clark, 28, has worked for Hi-Line for eight years having completed his NVQ Level 2 in Arboriculture at Bath College in 2004. He has worked his way up from a tree cutter to a team leader to a tree surveyor.

The former student from Radstock said: “I didn’t really know much about the career until I did some work experience with the cutting tree team at the council. That’s how I got into it as I knew I wanted to study it at College.

“Now I travel around setting up the work for the tree cutting team. I have to survey the environment, carry out a risk-assessment and make recommendations, speak to landowners and try to get three metres of clearance.

“It’s hard work and the days can be long, but I just loved being outside; there’s no way I could work in an office.”

Representatives from Hi-Line, including Bath College’s former students, were invited to a breakfast event to celebrate the strong links.

The seven former Bath College students are: Ed Clark, Lewis Gingell, Joel Herbert, Mike Clarke, Ben Flower, Gary Sims and Elliott Bowerman.

Arboriculture Lecturer Martin Palfrey, who has worked at Bath College for 27 years, said it was an excellent example of student progression.

He said: “It’s great to see how so many of our ex-students doing so well with the same company. It’s a real testimony to the course and the College.

“It’s an interesting vocational area to train in and we make our students very employable. Our success rate speaks for itself.”

For more information on Arboriculture courses at Bath College’s Somer Valley Campus visit www.www.bathcollege.ac.uk or phone 01225 312191.

WEB Hi-Line Group pic

Pictured above: Students who studied arboriculture at Bath College’s Somer Valley Campus and now work together at Hi-Line tree surgeons. 

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