Horticulture course applications holding up

Colleges report that young people are undeterred by rising costs but career movers feel the pinch.

Capel Manor's intake has doubled - image: Capel Manor
Capel Manor's intake has doubled - image: Capel Manor

Rising college costs and government cuts to education have failed to put off youngsters from applying to land-based courses, colleges have reported.

Numbers of applications are on the up by as much as 100 per cent in some courses, with academics suggesting the economic downturn is prompting people to stay in education or retrain despite rising fees for some.

Capel Manor principal Steve Dowbiggin said: "Intake for 16 to 18-year-olds is nearly double last year and we have apprentices coming out of our ears. The problem is jobs - we desperately need employers in horticulture, landscape and arboriculture.

However, the picture is different for adult career changers, he said. "The numbers wanting one-year courses is 20 per cent down because fees are no longer subsidised. This is a big issue for horticulture, which is staffed a lot through career changers.

"The Government wants to encourage entrepreneurship and we know there are opportunities for landscapers to set themselves up in business. But people can no longer get a leg up."

A horticulture courses representative at Warwickshire Colleges, which includes Pershore, said applications to date for this year were up against last year for apprenticeships, RHS courses and arboriculture courses.

Apprenticeships were up by 16 per cent, while adult-learning courses - mainly RHS certificates - were up by 12 per cent and one of the level 3 arboriculture courses was up 100 per cent on applications last year.

"In some areas the reduction in funding for adults has affected the recruitment on full-time courses. But adults are still paying for the part-time courses such as RHS courses and we are actually up in applications," she said.

The college is piloting bite-sized courses, which were subsidised. To qualify applicants had to meet criteria such as the ability to secure a referral from a job centre. "This is still in the pipeline," said the college.

Writtle course manager Sandra Nicholson said applications for BSc in horticulture were slightly down on last year. But she added: "A lot of people are eligible for student loans, so probably feel it's worth taking on that level of debt to improve their skills."

Landex chief executive Chris Moody said: "Applications at land-based colleges appear to have held up well but that's not to suggest there hasn't been an enrolment downturn in some colleges.

"I don't think there will be a significant difference for 16 to 18-year-olds next year: Colleges are good at providing alternative support now that the education maintenance allowance scheme has closed.

"With adults, there is a shift towards higher fees. But at the current time it doesn't seem to have had a detrimental affect on enrolment. People are keen to retrain and land-based colleges are good at that."

Key Stat

Percentage rise in applications to some horticulture courses - 100%.

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