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Growing the Green Workforce with New Apprenticeships

Reading Time 2 minutes and 20 seconds
Date 7 September 2023
As humanity become increasingly aware of the biodiversity and climate crises, and how plants can provide solutions to these, it’s vital that we have a green workforce with the skills and knowledge in plant science and horticulture that will help us reach these solutions.

However, both here in Scotland, and in the wider United Kingdom, we are currently facing a shortage of skilled horticulturalists. In 2014, the RHS found that 70% of businesses say that they struggle to find the skilled workers they required, and as explained by the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA), this has only been exacerbated by Brexit and the pandemic.

The RHS “Horticulture Matters” campaign identified promoting apprenticeship opportunities as a key aim for the sector, in order to tackle the horticulture skills shortage. Our team agree that providing practical horticultural and conservation experience to those at the start of their career is key to tackling the green skills shortage and are currently supporting several internships and apprenticeships with the hope of enabling the young people we work with to go on to have successful careers in the field.

Since the end of June, we’ve been joined by Chloe, who is taking part in a three-month horticultural internship, working with both our Garden & Conservation team and Nursery & Facilities team, as well as taking part in plant identification. This experience has been tailored to Chloe’s interests, allowing us to provide her with the most valuable practical experience, and to compliment the horticulture qualifications she is working towards at college.

Our second internship has been supported by the Robertson Trust, which helps young people overcome financial and social barriers to gain the university education and career they aspire to. Our “Robertson Scholar” Erin will be with us for 6 weeks, working with across our Garden team to get a breath of experience, both in the Nursery and Garden, and as part of biodiversity monitoring surveys with our Curator Beccy. Erin will also be working on a special project, auditing and propagating plants in our collection which came from the 1981 Chinese-British expedition to Cangshan. We hope that this opportunity will provide Erin with key skills for the rest of her degree in Conservation Biology, including data handling, scientific writing and communicating her research.

As well as providing brilliant hands-on experience for our interns and apprenticeships, these programmes are an opportunity for professional development for the whole team. As our Curator Beccy explains, “Hosting an intern or trainee has a whole range of benefits for the existing team, too. It gives us a chance to develop coaching and training skills – and there’s nothing better for consolidating your own knowledge than having to explain something clearly to someone else.”

This year, we have also created a new year-long apprenticeship opportunity which will begin from September. This will provide hands-on experience for someone aiming to establish a career in horticulture or plant conservation, supported and guided by team members throughout, and backed by a tailored personal training program. We hope that we will be able to make this an annual opportunity, creating a long-term provision for early career horticulturalists.

By being a Friend and supporter of the Garden, you’re helping develop young people’s careers in plant conservation and horticulture, and build a strong, sustainable horticultural workforce.

You can read the RHS “Horticulture Matters” report online here

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