Industry gives mixed response to Government's £1m training plans

The Government's announcement of £1m to train 60 new green-space apprentices has had mixed reviews.

Although the cash injection has been welcomed as long overdue, the sum has been criticised by some in the industry for being too small. Housing minister Margaret Beckett announced the funding during last week's ParkCity conference, organised by CABE and Natural England.

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council planning policy officer Bruce Child was at ParkCity and criticised the Government's lack of commitment to the sector. He said: "The scope for improvement is huge and while the message is clear, the shift isn't happening."

Finance for the Future director Colin Hines added: "We are now seeing a realisation that real jobs are more important. But there has been billions thrown into the banks and we get a ratty £1m for our green-space apprentices.

"Chucking money at the people who caused the (economic) problem won't work but the Government will be able to look at its 60 new apprentices and eventually realise the good they are doing."

CABE Space head of public- space management and best practice Nicole Collomb said the money was a step in the right direction. CABE Space had lobbied the Government to provide the investment as part of its Skills to Grow strategy, which was launched during ParkCity.

She explained: "It is quite a big win for us because it has come out of our Skills to Grow strategy.

"Although the grant represents funding an apprentice for a year, it required a commitment from the local authority and they had to prove they could fund it after that first year."

Sixty apprentices will train from this autumn at 44 urban local authorities. Collomb said the scheme would help address the problem of green-space staff coming up through the ranks as more experienced staff retire.

The RHS has added its support to the programme and director general Inga Grimsey said: "We know through our own Green Skills initiative that the industry is struggling to attract new recruits and we hope that this cash injection will help to rekindle the nation's belief in apprenticeships."

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