RHS to redouble efforts to tackle skills crisis

Year two of RHS Horticulture Matters campaign will focus on promoting horticulture careers to secondary school pupils.

Nurseries: taster days to be run to inspire potential career entrants - image: HW
Nurseries: taster days to be run to inspire potential career entrants - image: HW

The RHS's Horticulture Matters 2014 report, due to be published later this month, is expected to say progress has been slower than expected on meeting its objectives because of the diverse nature of the industry.

Goals yet to be reached include promoting horticulture across Government, in education and apprenticeships, and to access Government funds. But the RHS said it will redouble efforts to tackle the skills crisis.

The report, to be published on 24 September at a YoungHort event at the Landscape Show in London, updates Horticulture Matters published in May 2013, which said 72 per cent of horticulture businesses surveyed were unable to fill skilled vacancies and 70 per cent of children believed horticulture was a career choice for the non-academic.

RHS director Sue Biggs said there is a growing crisis threatening our economy, environment and food security, but getting the key "asks" moving forward has been tough, although the group has made a good start.

She added that there were some big achievements but horticulture being such a diverse industry has made collaboration difficult. She vowed to increase efforts to promote horticulture at Government policy level in 2015.

Year two of the campaign will focus on promoting horticulture to secondary school pupils looking at careers and bringing more young people into the industry to save UK horticulture. This includes more links between horticulture businesses and schools.

The Horticulture Matters industry group - including the Chartered Institute of Horticulture - will push apprenticeship schemes and mentoring of young people.

The key asks of Government and educators have not changed but the RHS wants to increasingly embed horticulture across the curriculum up to key stage 4, including linking science and horticulture careers, to include plant pests and diseases in education, an area that will also see an RHS public information campaign on the dangers of bringing plant material from abroad into the UK.

The RHS will also recruit ambassadors to inspire potential career entrants, run more taster days at nurseries and gardens and invest in the Grow careers website.

Ambassador Alan Titchmarsh said the report shows the industry is coming together and Government is engaging with young and old about horticulture. The horticulture sector is getting more unified on who it wants in the industry and getting better at saying why they should join. Horticultural skills shortages are nationally concerning and much work is needed to address the problem, he added.

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