Council and contractor team up to plug 'green skills gap'

Addressing the green-space skills gap is a key goal for a borough council that has launched an apprenticeship scheme in conjunction with its contractor.

The London Borough of Hillingdon recognised there could be a deficit of skilled workers in its green spaces in the coming years and has begun tackling the problem with its new programme.

Working closely with contractor Connaught, the local authority has written into its grounds maintenance contract the requirement to include apprentices as a key performance indicator.

Hillingdon's green spaces service manager, Paul Richards, told HW the scheme was about "plugging the skills gap" as well as getting best value from the contractor.

"Quite a number of the staff are approaching retirement age," he said. "The scheme is purely funded by the contractor so we are getting good value out of it."

The scheme aims to recruit six green-space apprentices over the next two years who will work with a mentor and study at Capel Manor college one day a week. Two apprentices have been chosen so far from Connaught's current staff - Zack Dearing and Matt James. They will receive their regular pay.

Connaught senior contracts manager Ian Judd said: "We are losing them one day a week but we'll gain from their training.

"The key is getting the skills back at base level — then we will have perpetual sustainability."

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