Production horticulture placements marks upturn in sector, says Writtle lecturer

Essex-based Writtle College has for the first time secured paid industry positions for two of its MSc Horticulture (Crop Production) students.

Course leader John Cullum believes the creation of these placements reflects the rising value of production horticulture skills.

He said: "It’s the first year I have got two [work placements] and I have been in this job for about 30 years. It's an encouraging time for the industry. We have seen the decline in [production] horticulture and I never thought I would see that decline turn around. But there is now an upturn."

One of the placements is with a fruit advisory company and the other is with a major plant propagator.

"This year two of our MSc students have been given paid positions with companies to undertake their dissertations. This is very helpful to the students financially and gives the companies the chance to have a good look at a potential employee," said Callum.

He added: "These placements are a sign of the times because we have tried this before [and it hasn’t worked] but this plant raiser, for example, now has an active programme of taking on apprentices."

"I would hope by next summer to have four of five of these placements lined up. Employers are recognising the fact that you are not going to find people out there with that interest and that ability in production."

Cullum said he also hopes to find similar placements next year for some of his MSc Post Harvest Technology (PHT) students.

He added that PHT is becoming increasingly more important thanks to the "success stories" in horticulture over the past few years.

"The [success stories] have been in protected crops and in particular protected fruit. That [sector] has grown tremendously."

"Protected crops is where the growth is in post-harvest technology."

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