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A Feasibility Study to Assess The Need For, and Viability of, a Southeast England Woodland Training Group


 Management Summary

1. Introduction

The study had five main objectives:

- To investigate the training requirements of the woodland businesses in the South East of England.
- To investigate if a dedicated business advisor for woodland businesses in the South-East of England is required.
- To investigate if the proposed format of a training group is that required by the woodland businesses in the South East of England.
- To establish the viability and sustainability of a woodland training group.
- To identify the present training providers of woodland, craft and small business skills in the South East of England.
- Two surveys were conducted, the first of woodland businesses aimed to fulfil objectives one to four and the second of training providers aimed to fulfil objective five.

2. Summary of Woodland Businesses Survey

A postal survey on a draft proposal for a woodland training group was circulated to 365 people and organisations in the woodland trades.  Of these, 61 (17%) questionnaires were returned.
72% of all 61 respondents confirmed they needed training over the next three years, and 73% of these would like to use a specialist advisor on woodland training, if one was available. 
62% of 55 respondents saying whether or not they would need business advice over the next three years, said they would. 
Respondents said there was a need to match carefully an individual’s need for training, and for business advice, with what was provided.  Several had had disappointing experiences with this in the past.
Many respondents thought that both training and business advice should be provided by people who were not only competent in the topics in which they were training or advising, but who also had a good understanding of small woodland businesses.
Training and advice were needed locally, ideally within 30 miles of respondents’ workshops. 
46% of 59 respondents said that, to the best of their knowledge, the training services they needed were not available, and 25% of 59 did not know whether or not training services were available.  Similarly, 34% of 58 respondents said they did not think that the business advice they needed was available, and 38% of 58 did not know whether the business services were available.  These responses suggest that an advisor directing woodland workers to both training and business advisory services would be useful.

Although the sample appeared to cover most woodland interests and experiences, the survey findings should be used conservatively, because there was no way of being sure that the sample reflected the total population of woodland workers in south-east England.
There did seem to be considerable support for a woodland training group, probably financed by an annual subscription, plus training costs.  Respondents confirmed that the group should:
- Co-ordinate, and offer to quality-assure, existing training .
Work with existing providers of training and business advice .
- Have its own specialist woodlands business advisor.
- Possibly have its own trainer, and that it should consider assisting new trainers.

Twenty-eight potential phone respondents were selected, 17 were eventually contacted and agreed to an in-depth phone interview.  They were each interviewed for up to 45 minutes - the average (mean and mode) interview time was estimated at 20 minutes.  In the final report, analysis of these supplementary, explanatory responses is differentiated from that of the mostly numerical, postal responses, except where explicitly stated.  

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