The growing recruitment challenges of the horticultural industry
Although an industry that contributes £9 billion to the UK economy each year, horticulture is undoubtedly facing some challenges in securing the skilled workers it needs to thrive in the future.
This isn’t breaking news. Back in 2015, Sir Bob Russell, MP for Colchester at the time pointed out to parliament that each year, twice as many people visit the gardens of England as watch premiership football. He talked about an ‘industry in crisis’ and blamed successive governments, as well as the education establishment, for not seeing horticulture as important.
According to information from the All-Party Parliamentary Gardening and Horticulture Group (APPGHG), there was a 34% drop in young people starting apprenticeships in the industry in 2017/18 academic year compared to the previous year. In bald figures that means nearly 150,000 fewer people wanting to take up an apprenticeship this year than last.
The APPGHG has been investigating the issues facing the garden and horticulture industry, as well as considering a post-Brexit environment and the impact on the sector.
Problems facing the industry
One of the problems is that the industry is often viewed as low skilled – a view that could not be further from the truth. With career routes as diverse as landscape architecture, arboriculture and soil science through to estate management and garden design, there are careers that suit the scientist, the creative and the practitioner. There’s a clear need to improve the perception of job opportunities within the sector.
Another key issue is rather than a co-ordinated national approach to developing the right skills that the industry needs, the process is fragmented. It seems necessary to find a way to bridge the gap between industry need, education and training.
With low levels of exposure to the industry within education, schemes such as the RHS Campaign for School Gardening seek to inspire and support schools to provide children with opportunities to enhance gardening skills. The RHS reports that 70% of businesses struggle to find the skilled workers they require and 83% attribute this to the poor perception of horticulture in schools and colleges.
And the worry is that the skills gap that already exists will be worsened in a post-Brexit world – indeed, the industry is already experiencing a noticeable drop in the availability of seasonal workers. With a need for 60,000 such workers each year, the majority of which are EU nationals, it is indeed a concern.
How can CWS help?
It all sounds a bit gloomy, but the good news is that CWS has a dedicated landscaping division, supplying landscaping, fencing and grounds maintenance companies around the UK.
We provide candidates to work on behalf of housebuilders, local authorities, private sector clients and housing associations. Whether you are seeking team leaders, supervisors or managers or need practical skills such as turfing, strimming, mowing, weeding, hedge cutting, spraying and leaf clearing, we can help.
We also supply fencing candidates and CSCS card labourers to new build housing estates for house cleans, turfing and shrub planting.
You can find out more about our services on stand A5 at the Landscape Show between 18-19th September at Battersea Park.