South Londoner Richard Cresswell was unemployed after completing a BTEC carpentry course at Richmond College when he attended a Government course and was offered a day's work experience from Streetscape co-founder James Gubb.
He says: "I like working outdoors and with my hands. On my first day we built raised beds. It wouldn't stop snowing - we couldn't get the van out from where it was parked - but I enjoyed it. They said can you stay until the end of the week and then the end of the contract and I said yes."
Soon he was offered a year's apprenticeship with Streetscape and started on-the-job training on a series of garden builds with manager Keith Whitmore. Each week he learns three plant names and completes an hour's training, and every other week attends a day at Streetscape's training room studying for the KEITS level 2 NVQ in work-based horticulture. Streetscape also teaches students business, CV and interview skills as well as personal development.
In May, he was part of the team that built Andrew Fisher Tomlin's stand designs at RHS Chelsea Flower Show and is a volunteer first-aider with St John's Ambulance.
"From one week to the next it's different, from doing someone's gardening to doing a big project like Stepney City Farm," says Cresswell. "The people I work with are easy to get along with too. I'm really thankful they gave me the opportunity."
Whitmore says Cresswell has an amazing memory for plant names, good attention to detail and advanced massively in seven months. The first he was asked to learn, Buxus sempervirens, is still his favourite.
"Richard is motivated, enthusiastic and his punctuality is exceptional," adds Whitmore. He knows the plants and still remembers them. He is clearly going to pass the course and I can see him getting a job with a contractor or local authority, and working up." He has no doubt that his apprentice can achieve his dream job.
For further details, see www.HorticultureWeek.co.uk/go/landscapeapprenticeofyear.