Garden Centre Association Trust reports big increase in applications from industry students for financial help

The Garden Centre Association (GCA) Trust has received an "unprecedented" number of grant requests from horticultural students in 2012 and 2013.
The trust, which was established in 1987, makes awards to students within the industry to enable them to afford to complete their chosen courses.
GCA Trust chairman Sue Allen said: "The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) recently reported that our industry struggles to fill skilled vacancies. However, we have seen a vast increase in the number of financial help requests we’ve received during the past 12 months, with seven people applying.
"It is clear that in a time when the horticultural industry is struggling to recruit qualified people, students are finding it increasingly difficult to pay their course fees, travelling costs and general living expenses.
"We know how important it is to help the future generation of our industry so our trustees have taken the view that all genuine applicants should receive help, regardless of the fact that this will diminish the amount held by the trust."
The trustees have reported that during the past year, seven students have received grants and they know from the students’ responses that without this money many of them would not have been able to continue with their studies.
The students funded are enrolled on various courses, including a Level 3 National Diploma in Horticulture, Advanced Diploma in Garden Design, a final year Foundation Degree in Horticulture, and a Masters in Landscape Architecture.
The colleges involved include Cannington College in Somerset, to Sheffield University, and Askham Bryan, Kingston Maurward and Hadlow Colleges.
The GCA Trust trustees also administer the Dick Allen Scholarship Fund, which is supporting Lionel Smith, a PhD researcher at the University of Reading for the third year.
His work developing floral lawns will be on display at this year’s 100th Chelsea Flower Show.
Allen added: "In order to continue to help ensure the successful future of our industry we need support. If you would like to make a donation or arrange a bequest to allow the GCA Trust and Dick Allen Scholarship Fund to continue its work, please contact Pat Adams at the GCA on 0118 930 8918."
The trustees are also eager to encourage garden centres to consider sending staff with management potential to work in other countries and will consider funding the travel costs involved from the Dick Allen Scholarship Fund.
Guy Topping, trustee of the GCA Trust and managing director at Barton Grange Garden Centre in Preston, said: "Workplace exchanges are something that we have been encouraging at Barton Grange for some time now.
"The opportunity for an individual to go and experience a different culture, pick up some fresh ideas and to broaden their horizons is great for them and equally great for the business. Staff returning with increased confidence, renewed enthusiasm and a few tales to tell are only helpful to the business.
"We continue to pay them and their hosts generally provide them with accommodation. This leaves the staff member with the air-fare to pay, which can be quite a big ask and a major stumbling block. A grant from the Dick Allen Scholarship Fund should remove this obstacle and hopefully pave the way for many more garden centre staff to experience working in another country."

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