Learning for life - landscape design and contracting

Formal training does not have to stop when students leave college. In fact, many employers encourage staff to gain qualifications to gain qualifications to help increase sales and morale.

Earthmoving work on a landscaping project - photo: HW
Earthmoving work on a landscaping project - photo: HW

Owing to the lack of recognised qualifications in the landscape design and contracting industry, the British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI) has introduced a scheme for the Registration of Land-based Operatives (ROLO) card certification.

There are three levels of card: student, skilled and advanced. The most popular card is the skilled card, for which candidates must attend a one-day ROLO course. At the end of this they are presented with a card, which acts like a mini CV with details of the holder’s previous training. ROLO card administrator Ruth Jennings says: These cards are very reassuring to clients because it’s evidence that the holder has gone through a course.

Technical director at BALI, and senior contracts manager and training manager at Ground Control, Neil Huck, sends all his staff on the ROLO course. He explains: We foot the bill for getting these cards and one of the best things about it is that it trains all employees to one standard on health and safety. Clients have a lot more confidence in our staff.

Bill Davidson, group safety and training manager at landscape contracting firm Gavin Jones, which is also highly committed to training and development, says the rise in self-esteem of employees who have undergone training is remarkable. As a qualified trainer, he runs many courses to help employees work towards National Proficiency Tests Council (NPTC) qualifications.

He says: I get much better results than external trainers and people are not so worried about it because they’re working in familiar surroundings. After all, a lot of people go into the practical side of this industry because they want to get away from an academic environment. When you know your people you can train them carefully and they get much higher satisfaction.

For example, Davidson helps with rusty skills, such as numeracy, which external trainers might take for granted.
Huck’s main concern with this industry is the lack of training of junior and middle managers. There are no supervisory qualifications related to pure landscaping horticulture management culture, so there’s a big dearth of people with the right training, he claims.

In his capacity as chairman of the Landscape Industries Group, Huck is planning to organise some kind of skills training in subjects such as managing contracts and operations, during the next six months to a year. Another reason for up-skilling the workforce is that the forthcoming 2012 London Olympics will require a huge amount of skilled and semi-skilled labour for landscaping.



Landscaping company ­Hambrooks, which employs 95 people, won BALI’s employer of the year award last year. Its rigorous approach to training was one reason that it received this accolade.

As well as training recruits who have come directly from school or college in craft skills, the company also offers supervisory training for more senior managers. It provides training via the Landscape Training Group and ­Business Link. Design training, ­however, is carried out via a ­correspondence course through a leading landscape design school.

Some of its employees are currently working towards the HTA’s Landscape Award as well as the HTA’s Supervisory Award. Some employees are going through the workbooks on their own, others prefer to study in a group.

The company owner Norman ­Hambrooks (pictured) says: The ­outcome is the same. Training has boosted morale a lot, and given people more confidence. The biggest benefit for us is the improvement in customer care, which has a direct ­correlation with our bottom line. ­Training is the bloodline of industry.

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