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Links Across the Atlantic Enhance Student Learning

Date: 10th October 2017

Transatlantic visitors to Newton Rigg College were given a hands-on insight into forestry management UK style, as staff and students welcomed education professionals from Georgia, USA. Newton Rigg, which is part of Askham Bryan College, runs forestry courses at its Penrith campus and has forged links across the Atlantic with Coastal Pines Technical College which has begun to run similar courses.

Over the last year, the two organisations have shared lessons using Skype with questions  backwards and forwards from each group of students about the different methods of working. The initiative has proved so successful that future student exchange visits are being discussed.

Martyn Davies, Forestry Lecturer at Newton Rigg explained: “The first contact came in autumn last year when we learned that staff from Coastal Pines were visiting Cumbria and were interested in linking up with a college or university with forestry on the curriculum. We got in touch, invited them for an exploratory visit and the relationship has gone from strength to strength.”

The Georgia visitors, Ian Bond of the Technical College, System of Georgia, Glenn Deibert, College President and Tommy Peagler, Forestry Technology Instructor were shown round the different woodlands last week (Weds 4 & Thurs 5)  and were able to see students' practical work as they rolled their sleeves up and demonstrated skills they are learning as part of their Level 2 and Level 3 Diploma studies. They also visited companies and organisations which work in partnership with Newton Rigg including the Forestry Commission, A W Jenkinson and Komatsu.

Martyn added: “We are one of the few colleges in England to have an international forestry link and exchange programme and it's of great benefit to all, particularly the students.  They gain a real time insight into the different practices we each adopt including dealing with the different landscapes, industry drivers and government policies, in addition they forge valuable links which will stand them in good stead in terms of future employment, and it broadens the horizons of both sets of young people. It emphasises that opportunities are not restricted to one country but are world-wide and that there are a vast range of career paths and they don't necessarily need to be in the UK. ”

Newton Rigg College students go on to careers ranging from working for the Forestry Commission, to product production for national companies such as AW Jenkinson, to tree surveying or forestry management for private estates and the National Trust.

Martyn added:“There are significant differences between managing and harvesting timber in the States and over here, not least the scale. Also in the US there isn't the same importance attached to conservation and public access rights as it's more commercially driven and obviously the geography and climate are very different, it's often wet in Cumbria, but at least we don't have swamps to deal with when we're extracting timber!”

Newton Rigg College has around 20 hectares of managed woodland ranging from conifer planted, to wildlife woodland where biodiversity is key, plus two arboretums with a range of specimen trees.

Commenting Dr Bond said:  “Our visit has been excellent and exceeded our expectations. The key driver for our courses is to provide what companies need. Our mission is to have workforce development, ensuring employers have a sustainable pipeline of talent for their businesses. What we have seen here re-enforces the importance of that goal. We look forward to developing our working relationship with Newton Rigg and Askham Bryan College still further.”

The photograph shows l-r Newton Rigg College Forestry Lecturer Martyn Davies, Tommy Peagler, Instructor from Coastal Pines Technical College, Georgia with students Reuben Allanson and Liam Sanderson. The students are discussing timber extraction during the visit to the college's Thoulber Wood near Penrith.

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Newton Rigg College,
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01768 893400