Prince Charles has cut the ribbon on a new eco-building that will help prepare disadvantaged youngsters for work in some of the nation’s most prestigious gardens.
The £1.3m timber-clad building draped in plants boasts a sedum roof, sheep wool insulation, rainwater harvesting and a roof garden.
Roots & Shoots in London’s Lambeth teaches NVQ 1 horticulture, English, maths and IT. The centre is next to a glasshouse and polytunnel, a wild garden and pond.
The 16- to 19-year-olds do 10-week placements in grounds including Buckingham Palace gardens and Grosevnor Estate.
Employment liaison officer Ian Carruthers said: “Many trainees haven’t succeeded in formal education. By the time they have finished here they are really employable in horticulture.”
Around half of all trainees go into work, the other half go on to further training. Two of the annual intake of 20 have recently applied for Royal Parks’ apprenticeships.
Grosvenor Estate landscape manager Steven Smith said: “Horticulture is desperate for
young people. If they have a good placement, it will encourage them to stay.
“When I started, one lunchtime, we added up the combined age of just a handful of staff. It was 240. Even if young people pass through, they remain in the skills’ pool.”
Roots & Shoots was launched 25 years ago by former Kew worker Linda Phillips, and the group also teaches retail skills.
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