I was fortunate to get onto the Agricultural Training Board apprenticeship scheme - of which I did two years day-release and one year full-time education - to gain a national certificate in agriculture and a number of craftsman certificates in machinery operations. In 1986, I secured employment at HMP Lindholme (South Yorkshire) as an agricultural craftsman. I was placed in the gardens department looking after 25 offenders maintaining the prison grounds.
- What does your typical day involve?
I now manage five staff and 36 offender workers and we look after 24ha of amenity landscaping, sports fields and a small greenhouse. We have nine offenders on full-time accredited training for National Proficiency Test Council (NPTC) level 1 (7573) horticultural skills. We also offer NPTC level 2 QCF certificates of competence in tractors and equipment. I attend lots of meetings in the prison contributing to development in areas such as health and safety, diversity and resettlement.
- What is the best part of your job?
Visual results and recognition from offenders and staff when all the hard work comes to fruition. Offenders gaining qualifications and putting their acquired skills back into the grounds, with the added knowledge that their training will help them lead productive, law-abiding lives on release.
- And the worst?
Damage to grounds by contractor and delivery vehicles.
- What piece of kit can you not do without?
Lawnmowers. During the growing season, the sound of mowers is constant here.
- How do you relax after a hard day?
I try to play golf to an 18 handicap, and I also enjoy cooking.
- What is your greatest achievement in horticulture?
Becoming an NPTC assessor.
- What is your horticultural ambition?
Probably to become a NPTC external verifier in my field of knowledge.