Young blood was an emphasis of GroSouth (13 November), with inaugural Grow Careers seminars organised by Walberton Nurseries technical manager David Hide.
Hide asked 12 students to hear industry figures and tour the GroSouth venue, Roundstone Nurseries. "Our main objective is to narrow the gap between education and the industry so it's easier for young people to move into the industry," he said.
Students from Merrist Wood, Sparsholt, Sissinghurst, Hadlow and Chichester Colleges heard how-they-got-started talks from New Place Nurseries' Paul Dyer, XL Horticulture's Les Lane, Fargro's Neil Helyer, VHB's Laura Marner and Sinclair's Hayley Perrin.
Dyer said the industry is friendly, often hi-tech and encourages students to join the International Plant Propagators Society (IPPS). Marner said IPPS trips to Belgium and New Zealand helped her commit to being a propagator. Perrin agreed that the industry is friendlier than most.
Sissinghurst trainees Jon Fenlon and Helen Silver said they liked what they heard and were pleased to hear you do not necessarily need lots of qualifications to succeed.
Steven Quick and Glenn Lucas from Merrist Wood and Simon Walsha and Lance Russell from Hadlow said hearing about others' career paths was valuable, while Kelsey Orr and Katie Percival from Chichester College added that James Wong is their inspiration.
RHS education project officer Paul Kettell said he would have a secondary-school focus in 2014 with industry taster days to show that the industry is neither old, boring nor hard work.
West Sussex Growers Association chairman Graham Bryant added: "We need to encourage young blood. You see the same faces at the show, only looking older."
Study day: Nursery stock discussion group
GroSouth also featured a nursery stock discussion group study day the day before the main show.
It drew up to 100 people for pre-show seminars, visits to New Place Nurseries, Walberton Nurseries and JT Phormiums as well as a dinner. Delegates discussed the 2013 hardy nursery stock propagation guide and weed-control handbooks.
Jim McAlpine, managing director at sponsor Fargro, said: "The event creates horticultural excellence and manifests into a more vibrant show."