Model answers to the skills challenge

"What keeps us awake at night?" asks an investigation into the future of the horticulture industry's workforce written by South East England Development Agency workforce champion and grower Dr Alan Rae.

The answer, from the growers he interviewed is clear. Worry number one - where will the next generation of leaders for the production horticulture come from? Worry number two - the need for a stable supply of well-trained workers to drive the business and handle peaks effectively.

While both concerns have of course been with us for many years, they have each been exacerbated in recent times by a combination of factors, not least declining profit margins and the gradual erosion of the public infrastructure required to develop and expand the industry's knowledge base.

Meanwhile, in March this year the threat to all horticulture skills development in the UK deepened dramatically with the publication of a report by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills that deemed horticulture a "non priority" area - hence likely to find itself fighting over the crumbs from the priority industries' public funding table.

With the situation looking so bleak, Rae's research, published as a guide for production horticulture professionals concerned with building a sustainable horticulture workforce, provides a much-needed bright spot. In particular, its collation of innovative solutions being tried and tested right now by exemplar growers alongside a number of industry-led training initiatives is encouraging.

On the skills retention side they include business diversification, stretching the growing season, and introducing annualised hours to enable core workers to be retained throughout the year to developing a loyal local labour bank. On the skills creation side they include the development of a level 3 qualification in cultural techniques for production managers and a level 2 nursery manager diploma deliverable on-site and currently being trialled.

None are a panacea. But while the fight to fix the damage done to the infrastructure required to deliver the industry's knowledge base continues, the models outlined in the guide could offer many a way forward.

Email: for recent leaders.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Read These Next



The range of colours and flowering times makes for cheerful and economic displays, Miranda Kimberley reports.

Pitches - seeds and consumables

Pitches - seeds and consumables

The right seeding and inputs are essential for keeping grass in top condition and ensuring that pitches look and perform at their best, says Sally Drury.



Customers do not often know about the different leaf colours and shapes offered by hollies, Miranda Kimberley reports.

Opinion... Standardisation good for the trade

Opinion... Standardisation good for the trade

Horticulture could benefit from streamlining in the supply chain.

Opinion... Get rid of plastics in Horticulture

Opinion... Get rid of plastics in Horticulture

Blue Planet II eloquently showed the rich tapestry of life in the oceans. It also focused public awareness on plastic pollution damaging wildlife.

Opinion... Gardening needs better promotion

Opinion... Gardening needs better promotion

British horticultural firms and organisations have not been the best at working together to promote our industry.

Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +
Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Horticulture Week Top 60 Ornamentals nurseries

See our exclusive ranking of ornamentals nurseries by annual turnover. 

Tim Edwards

Boningales Nursery chairman Tim Edwards on the business of ornamentals production

Read Tim Edwards

Pest & Disease Tracker bulletin 

The latest pest and disease alerts, how to treat them, plus EAMU updates, sent direct to your inbox.

Sign up here

Are you a landscape supplier?

Horticulture Week Landscape Project Leads

If so, you should be receiving our new service for Horticulture Week subscribers delivering landscape project leads from live, approved, planning applications across the UK.

Peter Seabrook

Inspiration and insight from travels around the horticultural world

Read more Peter Seabrook articles