email Phone
Email Us 07787 811091

Jack Silberrad – From Suits to Boots

One bee farming apprentice’s journey to graduation

After gaining a first-class degree in microbiology, Jack yearned for something more than a comfortable position as a medical sales representative could offer. Settled in Cambridge, he began keeping bees as a keen hobbyist, quickly seeking opportunities to experience and learn in assisting larger scale hobbyists with their own bees. During this time he applied to undertake an apprenticeship at the London Honey Company.

With hands-on teaching to manage 350 colonies, Jack’s confidence in key decision-making grew dramatically. Working day-to-day, seeing hundreds of colonies in a week, leaves its mark; the speed and ‘bee-sight’ of a commercial bee farmer are just two things that experience brings, and were honed through a breadth of apiary locations. From rooftops in London with tricky access, heather moors and fierce elements, to woodlands in Kent and estates in the Cotswolds, each has their own variation on a season, forage, and physical challenges.

Alongside producing a wide array of honeys and products of the hive, essential teaching blocks at East Surrey Bees provided a thorough base of theory knowledge with immediately apparent practical applications. The support this element of the apprenticeship offered mad a big impact on how Jack approached his daily work.

The apprenticeship also encouraged a sabbatical in the third year to spend time with different bee farmers nationally and internationally, for exposure to often very different management techniques, business structures, and ethos. Sponsorship by the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust and Highgrove Enterprises enabled Jack to work in New Zealand’s Mānuka season at Manuka Island Honey. This yielded unique insight into queen rearing and novel management techniques for 750 double-queen colonies in an environment almost as challenging as London’s congestion zone.

On completion of his apprenticeship with a Distinction in 2020, Jack set up his own company, Bee & Bird, bringing great British products of the bee hive to artisanal food producers, delis and real food enthusiasts. He offers seminars, tuition, apiary management and cavity nest removal, and he is also an authorised Bee Inspector.

He is currently working in a team with Ghanaian bee farmers and vets to make Ghana’s honey suitable for export.

Aaron Wright – Stained Glass Apprentice

Aaron Wright completed his one-year Higher Apprenticeship in Stained Glass Practice in December 2015 and is a highly valued member of the Chapel Studio in Norfolk, increasingly taking on more complex projects and supervising junior staff.

He was awarded a Journeyman Certificate of Excellence in 2018 and admitted as a Freeman of the Glaziers’ Livery Company in January 2020.

Aaron working on conserving the original stained glass windows from Mansion House (above) and re-installing a window in the Eqyptian Hall in August 2020 (below).

Tom Carroll – Wheelwright Apprentice

Tom’s initial training was at Plumpton College in Lewes, East Sussex where he first gained a Level 2 Diploma in Environmental and Land Based Studies Diploma.  He progressed to an extended BTEC Diploma in Countryside Management & Environmental Conservation gaining an A* and he was also awarded Best Practical Student in Countryside Studies at Plumpton College in 2014. 

He was employed as a Forestry/ Arboricultural Operative for two and a half years, mainly for the Woodland Trust, before spotting an advertisement for a Wheelwright apprenticeship with local Master Wheelwright, Douglas Andrews, in Heathfield, East Sussex.   

“I have always enjoyed making things out of wood and working with my hands, so when an opportunity to train as a Wheelwright arose to learn a heritage craft from a Master Wheelwright, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse!” 

Tom’s apprenticeship is jointly funded by the Worshipful Company of Wheelwrights and the Worshipful Company of Coachmakers.  His progression has been extremely fast and he will complete his apprenticeship 20 months early in November 2020.

As Tom had worked in forestry, he was drawn towards making a third sized timber nib for his final project piece. It is a simple yet graceful implement that moves felled timber out of the forest with horses or oxen.

Tom completed his apprenticeship 20 months early in November 2020 and his achievement was recognised at the Alternative Lord Mayor’s Show event held via Zoom on 14th November 2020, when he was interviewed about his final project piece in front of over 150 Liverymen from the Wheelwrights, Pattenmakers, Tin Plate Workers and Coachmakers.

Since completing his apprenticeship, Tom has progressed to such an extent that he can now be relied upon to run the workshop during holiday periods. He has shown himself to be hardworking, technically sound and trustworthy to be given this responsibility. He has worked ably on a wide range of wheelmaking, coach building and millwrighting tasks, and the skill and diligence he has demonstrated, as well as his intention to expand his professional development, led to him being awarded a Journeyman Wheelwright Award for Excellence in March 2022.

In September 2022 Tom joined 4 wheelwrights on the Wheelwrights’ stand at the Livery Craft Fair showcasing their craft and skills.In September 2022 Tom joined 4 wheelwrights on the Wheelwrights’ stand at the Livery Craft Fair showcasing their craft and skills.

Katie Warwick – Bee Farming Apprentice

I never imagined I would become a beekeeper. I recall doing a career prospects form at school. The results came in and, based on my answers I was to become a demolition instructor.  Somehow, looking back, that would have been less surprising. On the other hand, now that this is what I’m doing, it makes perfect sense and in a way it feels natural to have arrived at this point.

The opportunity to become a bee farming apprentice came about quite suddenly. I was a gardener in London at the time and was offered a chance to join the BFA/Rowse apprenticeship scheme with the Scottish Bee Company as my employer. In order to do this I would need to move to Scotland. It was a big life change, but the opportunity seemed so random and unique I felt I couldn’t say no.

Prior to starting the course I had no idea that bee farming was a viable career opportunity. I only knew of beekeeping as a hobby and even then, only vaguely. However, I had always been interested in the relationship between pollinators and plants due to my gardening and for some time had become increasingly interested in environmental issues including the impact of food production on the natural world. 

I came onto the apprenticeship scheme as a complete novice and at the first workshop down in Surrey I remember feeling quite intimidated by the other apprentices who seemed to have at least some experience working with a hive. However I quickly got over this. The enthusiasm of my tutors and fellow apprentices was infectious. And we really did start from scratch. I always felt comfortable asking questions (not a situation I had experienced at school). 

Thinking back to that first session and how little I knew, compared to the experiences I’ve had since and what I know now is staggering. Three seasons in and I see that the apprenticeship scheme has been a revelation to me. The combination of classroom learning over the winter months, alongside the practical day to day graft of a beekeeping season is a fantastic way of understanding the career potential of bee farming as well as understanding the bees themselves. 

I realise now what opportunities for my future there are linked to the world of bees. I could produce high quality honey, rear queens, teach or work with wider environmental issues or even combine all these. On my journey one area I’ve become particularly interested in is how to work with and encourage other pollinators and wildlife alongside the beekeeping and how to create a greener bee farming business. I feel there is a lot that can be explored here.

The apprenticeship has opened up a world for me that I didn’t really know existed. My engagement with the natural world started with gardening but has been enhanced by my three years bee farming. The knowledge and confidence I have to look after colonies of bees is quite amazing to me. There have of course been challenges along the way and it hasn’t always been easy, but those challenges have been important in my development. 

For me, the biggest indicator of the apprenticeship’s success is the fact that I want to keep bee farming next year. The course has given me knowledge, confidence and a renewed connection with the world around me. My head is full of ideas which is really exciting to me and I look forward to seeing what happens next.

Wax Chandlers’ Bee Farming Apprenticeships

Since the end of the government-funded Pilot Scheme, there have been 6 small cohorts of bee farming apprentices sponsored by Rowse Honey and the Bee Farmers’ Association and supported by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). 31 trainees have been placed during the first five years of the new sponsorship.

Those successfully completing the three-year programme are awarded a Diploma in Excellence in Bee Farming by the Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers.

Congratulations to Phoebe Lamb who received an Apprentice Award for Excellence in 2020. Having achieved a distinction for her apprenticeship, she found her own sponsor in Freedom Brewery who employed her after she finished her apprenticeship. She recently gave a presentation to DEFRA’s Bee Health Advisory Forum on the value of bee farming apprenticeships.

The Bee Farmers’ Association continues to take on a small number of apprenticeships each year: