Reader Panel - How can more young people be enticed into horticulture?

A recent survey by the RHS showed that 70 per cent of 18-year-olds do not think that horticulture is a career of which to be proud, while warning that there is a "looming skills crisis" in the sector, which has vacancies that it cannot fill. Conference attendees gave their views on how to get more young people into horticultural jobs

TV presenter

"We need to work harder at communicating to schools in particular that horticulture is a career and not a second-best option. I encourage the sector to make contact with schools' careers departments to demonstrate what you have to offer and arrange visits to your place of work.

"Universities have an established application system - we don't and that means we have to get out there and sell ourselves. Send someone you think is going to excite interest."

Alan Titchmarsh, TV presenter

College principal

"The magical ingredient is education and training. We need to make horticultural skills as important as numeracy and literacy.

'We should come up with a mandate that states every child should experience a certain level of horticultural education.

"We need to professionalise the qualification framework. If we can get people taking GCSEs in horticulture, we will then get people taking A-levels."

Steve Dowbiggin, principal, Capel Manor College

Council officer

"We need to sell the different aspects of horticulture better. I work on projects in high schools where we do gardening as a business enterprise so it involves maths and IT.

"I had to fight my way into the industry because the careers advice wasn't positive and there wasn't much advice in general. I was told that horticultural jobs are largely in the south and that could have put me off a bit."

Damian Jenkinson, Wigan Council officer and BBC Young Gardener of the Year nominee

Career body chair

"We can get more people into the sector by helping to expand the Grow web portal. Get your logo added to Grow posters. You can like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or link Grow to your website. You could run a Grow careers day or become an ambassador. You can also advertise jobs via Grow.

"The industry must unite on this. Although it may not be the best-paid job, it's often the case that is it not money but a happy fulfilling life that is top of pupils' wish list."

Leigh Morris, chair, Grow careers initiative.

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