Let’s support more apprentices into horticultural careers

Apprentices are the life-blood of the garden industry and passing on horticultural skills to them secures the industry for the future…

I’m a big believer in supporting and nurturing the next generation of gardeners. Over the years we’ve fostered many apprentices at Abbotswood, cultivating their talents and encouraging them to learn new skills.

We have developed a long-standing relationship with the local College of West Anglia and its apprenticeship scheme, employing five apprentices, with some completing Advanced Apprenticeships and becoming team leaders. We are currently employing two of the college’s apprentices: Dan Fuller, 17, who is working towards a Level 2 City & Guilds apprenticeship in Horticulture and Robbie Matthews who is working towards a Level 3 (read more on Robbie below).

I really enjoy watching the apprentices develop and I’m always so proud when I see someone I’ve taken on as a teen move on and become a gardener or groundsmen in their own right.

Few youngsters realise what a great job gardening is, and what a good career path it can be. Horticulture can give you access to so many skills, from general gardening expertise such as pruning, mowing and planting to people management, landscaping and even design.

One man went to mow...apprentice Dan Fuller takes lawn care in his stride

One man went to mow...apprentice Dan Fuller takes lawn care in his stride

“Horticulture is an excellent career choice for anyone who enjoys working outdoors and who takes pride in their work,” affirms our apprenticeship advisor Cindy Baldry from The College of West Anglia. “With so many pathways available there will always be guaranteed employment.”

But Cindy says willing employers are crucial in providing opportunities for these budding gardeners. I would add that decent wages would also entice more students to take this career path, but sadly the level of pay can fluctuate wildly across the country.

Apprentice Robbie Matthews works alongside Abbotswood gardener Jordan Parrett

Apprentice Robbie Matthews works alongside Abbotswood gardener Jordan Parrett

“Abbotswood are fantastic at motivating and encouraging their apprentices,” Cindy tells me. “Work experience is a great way to encourage young people into the profession as their first taster. Apprentices develop skills with their employers, learn to use a variety of tools, the ability to identify plants, weeds, pests and diseases, establish plants and get an understanding of soil science. But employers must be committed to the apprenticeship and must engage in assisting apprentices to learn and develop skills and knowledge.”

We’re currently recruiting for a Level 2 apprentice. If you are interested, please email your CV and covering letter to rob@abbotswoodgardeners.co.uk


Robbie's Story

Age: 24

When did you join Abbotswood? Two years ago in September.

How many hours do you work: Five days a week, 8am to 4pm.

Have you always enjoyed horticulture? When I was younger, I never thought I’d be making a career in horticulture but I always knew I enjoyed the outside and being hands on. Within a week with Abbotswood I knew I have made the right decision.

What do you love about your job? There’s so much to learn, in fact you’ll never stop learning new skills, which is exciting. We look after 10-12 gardens in Cambridgeshire and I love the variety of the work. There’s a really friendly atmosphere in the Abbotswood team and lovely clients.

Would you recommend on-the-job training to others? Yes. You gain so much knowledge from your co-workers. Although starting an apprenticeship at the age of 23 was tough financially, I told myself to be patient as I know it will be hugely beneficial in the end.