Horticulture student intake on the up

Colleges report a rise in the number of students taking horticulture courses in this year's intake.

Horticulture courses have seen a rise in student numbers - image: Hadlow College

Colleges say they have seen a rise in the number of students taking horticulture courses this year, although some higher education courses are struggling.

Capel Manor College principal Steve Dowbiggin said: "We are 16 per cent up on last year. Most of those are 16-18-year-olds, but we have a whole range of courses for people who are unemployed and people doing six-week courses are then signing up to full-time courses.

"Also, our apprenticeship scheme is going really well and we are 14 points above the benchmark. It's one of the best schemes in the country and we now have more employers offering to take people on than students."

He added: "The quality of youngsters is also high. We have been selective and made sure people go on the right courses. A lot of people have applied for level-two or -three courses and we insisted they did the lower courses to get more practical experience."

Hadlow College finance director Mark Lumsdon said: "Our further education numbers are standing up quite well and are very close to last year, when recruitment broke the previous record.

"As with virtually every other institution, directly reflecting the cost involved, higher education numbers are a challenge. Several institutions have withdrawn their degree programme in production horticulture but we continue to offer this specialism. We must persuade more young people to consider this vital option."

Askham Bryan College horticulture section leader David Campbell added: "Further education admissions are up 12 per cent but higher education numbers are drastically down by about 60 per cent because more adults are doing level three because it's cheaper and they can still earn a living afterwards - and of course there is the rise in fees."

College view

"Generally speaking, it is better this year than it was last year. Most colleges are reporting increased figures for full-time horticulture. "It seems to be a re-establishment to what it was two years ago. We have seen a dip and now we're coming out of that dip. Hopefully, now it's on an upward trend, we can help it continue to rise.

"When a country is in recession the land-based professions become more attractive and people are realising that there are a lot of jobs available. "Also, we are getting the message across that there are progression opportunities in horticulture and it is not the dead-end industry some see it as."

Chris Moody, chief executive, Landex.

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