Borders College students find work through estate placement

Two horticultural students from the Borders College have secured career opportunities as gardeners at Mertoun Estate Gardens near St Boswell's in the Scottish Borders.

James Morton, Rupert Norris (Head Gardener) and Alex Wilkinson
James Morton, Rupert Norris (Head Gardener) and Alex Wilkinson

The 26 acres of ornamental gardens, arboretum and productive walled garden are managed by head gardener Rupert Norris and owned by the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland.

Borders College and Mertoun Estate have built up a long standing relationship to train and develop Horticultural students and the estate has annually provided an opportunity for two students from the Borders College to carry out weekly work experience in the gardens with Norris, while also attending college.

Horticulture lecturer Nigel Gibb has also been able to bring student groups to the gardens in order to use the gardens as a valuable resource for practical training.

This year Mertoun Estate has provided three students with work placements. Two of the students, James Morton and Alex Wilkinson, have just been employed by the estate after finishing their Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQ) in Horticulture.

Morton, who has secured the permanent assistant gardeners position, started at the Borders College aged 15 when he joined the College’s Rural Skills programme in Estate Maintenance whilst still at school. He then progressed onto study a full-time Level 1 Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) in Horticulture, then the Level 2 SVQ Horticulture course a year later. Finally he successfully completed the Level 2 SVQ in Landscaping to broaden his underpinning knowledge and skills. James was also a runner up in the 2015 VQ Learner of the Year Award for Scotland.

Wilkinson, aged 38, came to the Borders College having had a career in the Royal Navy. He has studied Level 2 and 3 Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQ’s) in Horticulture over the last two years and carried out his work experience at Mertoun Estate Gardens. He has secured work on the estate as a seasonal gardener to give him the flexibility to return to college next session to study landscaping.

Gibb said: "As a training provider we are most grateful to the estate for their continued commitment and support in helping our horticulture students gain valuable work experience and in this case employment. It is this relationship between the Borders College, students and employer which ensures that we maintain the skills needed to support the horticultural industry."

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