Horticultural Apprenticeships and the ‘Skills Shortage’

4th Corner recently attended the North Oxfordshire Academy’s Careers and Apprenticeships Fair in May to promote our horticulture apprenticeships to the next generation.

Research has shown that the current perception of students towards the horticultural trade are generally low. Many students see horticulture as a low-skilled, low-paid job that involves hard manual labour and requires little education or training, this perception is simply not true.

In fact, horticulture apprenticeships and careers enable young people to acquire many important transferable skills, including time management, leadership, team working and project management, as well as gaining practical knowledge of plants and gardening techniques. Moreover, average salaries in Oxfordshire range from £21-23,000, with management roles reaching £35-50,000.

We certainly aren’t alone in our difficulties recruiting. Despite the horticulture industry contributing £9 billion to the UK economy and employing around 300,000 people, 70% of businesses in the sector say they struggle to fill vacancies and 83% put this down to the poor perception of horticulture in schools and colleges, according to the RHS.

Horticultural Education

The current UK education system places a great emphasis on academic qualifications rather than vocational training, resulting in a lack of understanding of what qualifications or careers are on offer. There are few colleges within our area offer these services, and those who do are difficult to travel to on public transport.

Apprenticeships at 4th Corner

Governments can help by offering funding and incentives to schools and colleges that promote horticulture education. They can establish partnerships between educational institutions and the industry to provide students with the training and work based guidance.

It is an ideal career for those interested in climate change and improving the environment, those with a passion for biology or chemistry, or even those who enjoy visiting rural estates and gardens in their spare time.

Potential study routes might include studying biology, geography, chemistry, maths or English literature at A-Level, or completing vocational qualifications in agriculture or animal management. Bachelor Degrees in agriculture, ecology, environmental sciences and rural estate management are also available for those wanting to pursue higher education.

Apprenticeships at 4th Corner

The UK government has recently introduced T-Levels, which are equivalent to 3 A-Levels and aim to prepare students for entry into skilled employment. T-Level courses in agriculture, land management and production begin in September 2023, and animal management in September 2024.

Apprenticeships at 4th Corner

4th Corner currently offer apprenticeships through Pershore College for a September 2023 start.

We have taken on several apprentices in the last 20 years, many of whom have worked their way up through our company and are now in leadership roles. Check out our interviews with Head of Soft Landscaping, Giorgo, and Senior Team Leader, Matthew.

When asked about his experience as a 4th Corner horticulture apprentice, Matthew stated: “I enjoyed doing the apprenticeship because I was learning as well as earning. I learnt lots of essential and interesting skills for the job during the apprenticeship in the workplace and at college including using machinery and plant identification. I would recommend the apprenticeship to anyone who has a love and interest in being outside with nature and likes making a positive, visible impact on the landscape.”

We offer Level 2 Horticulture Operative and Level 3 Horticulture Supervisor roles. For more information, check out Pershore College’s website here.

Recent Case Studies

Soft Landscaping: St Helen and St Katharine Sixth Form, Abingdon

Grounds Maintenance: The Pavilions, Bodicote

Tree Planting: Biodiversity Project for Kendrick Homes, Banbury