The Government’s Trailblazer Apprenticeships programme, developed following a Government review in 2012 of the existing apprenticeships offering, aims to ensure that apprenticeships are employer led and tailored to the needs of industry. Following the success of Trailblazer 1 and 2, which covered larger corporate businesses, Trailblazer 3 has involved employers across many sectors, including the arboriculture, forestry, horticulture and landscape sector. The new Arboriculture and Forestry Apprenticeship Standards received the Government’s green light in the autumn of 2015, and now Horticulture and Landscape have successfully passed scrutiny.
Offered at two levels – Supervisor and Operative – and covering two disciplines –Horticulture and Landscape Construction, the new apprenticeships will serve a wide range of businesses, large and small, operating in landscape construction and grounds maintenance in the private, public and commercial sectors.
The Horticulture and Landscape sector is not alone in facing an impending skills shortage of significant proportions and employers involved with the development of the new Apprenticeship Standards see them as an important incentive to young people considering making horticulture and landscaping a career. Those companies who meet the threshold for the new Apprenticeship Levy will also be keen to take advantage of an initiative that they are helping to fund and believe the new Horticulture and Landscape Apprenticeships will now deliver the skills their businesses need.
Chairman of the Horticulture and Landscape Working Group Neil Huck from Ground Control, the lead employer developing the new standards, commented:
“This has been an intensive process that has required the determination of everyone involved. By working together we have identified the critical skill sets employers need in their staff and we are now establishing an effective and robust programme of delivery and assessment. Once the new apprenticeships come online the future of the horticulture and landscape industries will look considerably brighter as young people see a real career path ahead of them.”
Neil Cain, Operations Director for contractor John O’Conner Grounds Maintenance and recipient of the Apprenticeships Champion of the Year accolade at the 2016 National Apprenticeships Awards, believes the new standards are a major industry achievement:
“I am delighted that, at last, we are nearing the point where we can offer relevant and exciting apprenticeships that will help to address our sector’s skills shortage. As a former apprentice I know from personal experience what a leg up a good apprenticeship can be. The Trailblazer programme has given employers the opportunity to really look afresh at the skills they need in their businesses in order for them to grow. The new Horticulture and Landscape Apprenticeships should make a big difference to recruitment in the sector.”
Sarah Cathcart, RHS Head of Education and Learning, commented:
“The RHS are delighted to see the Trailblazer standards accepted following hard work from the industry. A fresh look at the knowledge and skills needed in horticulture and landscape is a safeguard for the future and will ensure that training is focused and relevant. The new apprenticeships will ensure a consistently good standard of training and provide opportunities to encourage new horticulturists to enter our profession and to grow.”
Bill Trotman, Managing Director of Continental Landscapes Ltd, who are one of the apprenticeship trailblazers for the horticulture and landscape sector, noted:
“These new standards set out a framework where apprentices will receive high quality training that meets the needs of the industry. These qualifications are broad enough to give a solid foundation for any career within the industry, whilst having the depth to work at a professional level. The sector will benefit hugely as a result.”
Kate Nicoll, National Trust’s Garden Training Specialist, welcomed the progress made so far:
“As one of the largest employers of gardeners in the country we are acutely aware of skills shortages, particularly in the field of Heritage Horticulture. We are confident that these new apprenticeships will be attractive to young people, and help bring new talent into an incredibly satisfying career.”
Elaine Callaghan, Training and Project Manager for grounds maintenance contractor Quadron idverde, anticipates that the new standards will make a real impact on staff recruitment and retention:
“It has been good to be involved from the outset in developing these new apprenticeship standards for our industry and I am looking forward to being able to put them into practice and seeing results, with competent individuals progressing into these roles and making a real difference to the horticultural/landscaping sector.”
Drafts of the assessment plans for the Arborist, Forest Operative and Horticulture/Landscape Operative have been shared with training providers and awarding bodies and the feedback from this scrutiny is now being reviewed. It is anticipated that these new apprenticeships will be offered later this year with the Horticulture/Landscape Supervisor following on soon after.