Study reveals “horticulture skills crisis”

Skills shortages in horticulture businesses are ?nearing crisis levels? due to a lack of young people joining the industry, a study by Pershore College has revealed.

Almost three quarters (72%) of the 200 horticultural businesses surveyed were unable to fill skilled vacancies, while 70% of 18 year olds believed horticultural careers should only be considered by people who have ?failed academically?.

Nearly 50 per cent of under-25s think horticulture is an unskilled career.

?The perception of the industry needs to change,? said Steve Hughes, a sales manager at ICL Speciality Fertilisers, who ran a discussion group for the Pershore College students.

?We need to encourage more young people into the sector. Schools do not provide sufficient emphasis and should do more to promote the wide variety that horticulture offers to students of all academic levels.?

Hughes, who is passionate about supporting young people in the horticultural industry, added: ?I?m interested in arming young people with decent technical information that?s practical, and this is why I ran a growing media discussion group.?

ICL aims to bring young people into the horticulture industry by giving them a glimpse into wider industry. In November Hughes presented to the Midlands Regional Growers ? a group of 16 apprentices working at regional nurseries.

?The talk was at Pershore College and we covered the basics of growing media,? he said. ?We discussed the basic nutritional requirements of plants ? nitrogen, phosphate and potash; the difference between propagation materials needing low levels of feed to encourage root establishment; and why hardy nursery stock requires more.?

One of the apprentices on the course is 19-year-old Steve Jenkins, who next spring is going on a study trip to the US and Canada sponsored by Canadian horticulture charity, the David Colegrave Foundation.

?I?m working in the trials department at Ball Colegrave,? Jenkins said: ?In total, it?s a two year course and for three weeks of the year we stay on site and study here at Pershore College.

?I?ve also been offered a bursary for a week-long study tour to Oregon and Washington (US) and British Columbia (Canada) next February. I?m happy to be part of this industry and I?m just keen to learn more and get on.?

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