Britain’s historic gardens are in crisis — and it seems the Government doesn’t care. A lack of skilled young people entering the industry could lead to beds in parks and public gardens being grassed over.
RHS director general Andrew Colquhoun, speaking about a report presented at the Green Skills seminar last week at the Horticultural Halls conference centre in London, said: “It’s mainly people in this room who have got to sort it out. It’s no good relying on the Government. Whitehall doesn’t regard horticulture as economically strategic.
“Beds in our finest parks and gardens could be grassed over unless we can encourage the next generation of historical and botanic gardeners and managers.”
The seminar brought together almost 100 green sector and skills professionals. The conference, backed by English Heritage, Lantra, the RHS and the Royal Parks, aimed to “develop an agenda for future action to address the skills crisis”.
Colquhoun said he wants the bodies to tackle six main areas, including marketing, apprenticeships and education for 14 to 19 year olds. They are looking at putting together a six-figure marketing budget to promote the industry but no agreement has yet been signed.
English Heritage initiated the research, which was carried out by E3 marketing. E3 director Sarah Dalzell spoke of the questionnaire and focus group comments, which sought to map careers and review occupations and skills required to better understand staff recruitment and the retention crisis.
An ageing workforce, negative perceptions of salaries, image
and prospects, and limited practical experience with formal training
are some of the factors that are causing the skills crisis. The survey found that over a quarter are “second careerers”.
Gardeners at the focus groups demanded more information, advice and guidance on opportunities, education and training courses for young and mature recruits.
Colquhoun added: “The research has given us an important insight into the needs of these staff, their roles and expectations. This seminar is a valuable opportunity for the whole ‘green’ sector to identify solutions to help us recruit young talent with the skills to keep our gardens outstanding.”
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