The horticulture industry is widely known to have a labour crisis, as shown by NFU reports recommending 70,000 seasonal workers are needed annually, up from the current 40,000, and 2019 Ornamental Horticulture Roundtable Group (OHRG) research finding that 10% of supervisor, 14% of skilled trade and 11% of professional/technical roles remain open in ornamental horticulture and landscaping. But progress is being made.
1. Lords debate
Speaking in a Lords debate, Baroness Fookes said careers officers tell students horticulture is “for idiots”. But Defra minister Lord Benyon replied by saying horticulture has “enormous potential to grow” with the help of our “skilled and enterprising growers” and the “horticulture sector faces an exciting but challenging future”.
He continued: “It needs to be sustainable and to use modern technology and practices that help the environment. Attracting bright new talent into horticultural careers and having a skilled workforce is vital for the future of UK food and farming.” A career in horticulture is “grounded in innovation and the use of advanced and ever-progressing technology”, said Benyon. “To be successful, it requires a good understanding of business management, climate and logistics.”
He backed The Institute for Agriculture & Horticulture (TIAH) for “ironing out the fragmentation that exists within the current learning and skills landscape for farming businesses, enabling the industry to drive greater uptake of skills. TIAH is developing professional competency frameworks and career profiles to demonstrate the skills required across agricultural and horticultural roles, and where to access the training to develop them.
“It also works to raise awareness about the huge variety of rewarding and exciting career opportunities in the sector. Currently, only production is within TIAH’s remit, but its long-term intention is to bring other elements of horticulture into scope. Collaboration, however, is at the heart of what TIAH wants to deliver, and the ambition is to ensure close co-operation with the ornamental sector.”
Benyon also endorsed the OHRG’s Unlocking Green Growth plan for horticulture, which “can rightly be considered a green economy industry”.
2. Collaborative action
Last month, more than 20 leaders from agriculture and horticulture committed to spearheading collaborative, industry-wide action to attract more people into farming and growing careers. The effort was initiated by TIAH.
3. Tristram Plants
West Sussex-based Tristram Plants runs an apprenticeship scheme with Pershore College, offering an opportunity to gain an advanced
level 3 qualification as a horticulture crop technician.
4. Foundation support
The Colegrave Seabrook Foundation is stepping up its work to support the development of students studying horticulture in the UK and Ireland (listen to the HortWeek Podcast at tinyurl.com/5catac2m).
Defra is holding two T-level webinars next month, hosted by the Strategic Development Network and supported by the Department for Education. T Levels, broadly equivalent to three A levels, are new two-year courses taken after GCSEs.
• 8 November: Writing job descriptions, designing projects and setting objectives (see tinyurl.com/3eysdrp6).
• 24 November: The role of the line manager and mentor for industry placement students (see tinyurl.com/549yzpmp).
6. Fellowship scheme
The LSA Charitable Trust Fellowship Scheme is open for six participants per year to take part in a two-year programme. The aim is to develop the next leaders of the commercial horticulture industry and to help develop professionals within the industry to become more engaged with its strategic leadership.
7. Hillier Apprenticeships
Hillier Apprenticeships was launched after the company became an accredited Government employer training provider earlier this year, as part of Hillier’s new learning and development department.
These scheme offers a variety of apprenticeships from across various divisions in the Hillier business, including horticulture, hospitality, supply chain operative, retail, customer service and management.
Hillier is also partnering with Pershore College to provide a level 3 crop technician apprenticeship.
8. Future Gardeners
The 13-week free course for 14 students targets those not in education/training and the unemployed, people who can't afford training and those with learning needs. Future Gardeners is now a charity so will be able to source new types of funding in the future.
Around 120 have now graduated out of 150 who have taken the course since it began and there are now plans for expansion nationwide.