Speaking at the Institute of Horticulture (IoH) Young Horticulturist of the Year South East final, participants said training was increasingly barred to people without funds, while employers were likely to be wealthy landowners rather than public bodies.
RHS Wisley student Sue Moss, who won the regional heat to progress to the final at Harlow Carr on 7 May, said: "There is a money and class barrier. You have to start with a lot to get anywhere. If you're working your way up, garden design courses cost a fortune so you end up with garden designers who are wealthy but maybe not the people who are the best with plants."
Capel Manor student Joseph MacGahan added: "The Government's decision to cut Defra massively and try to sell off the national forest and nature reserves spoke of the way it values the environment despite claiming to be green and this directly affects jobs in the public sector. As it stands now, a lot of jobs are working for the affluent."
Kew student Ben Houston added that fewer jobs were available at major employers such as the National Trust and at Kew. But he added: "There is always room for skilled people and there is a shortage of skilled people."