The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) has called on the government to provide greater flexibility and support to horticultural businesses training apprentices as it marks National Apprenticeship Week, which begins today (Monday 6 February).
The HTA says reform of the Apprenticeship Levy scheme is needed to incentivise horticultural businesses to take on apprentices ahead of this year’s growing season. It says greater flexibility is needed in accessing the funds and broadening the scope for use. In addition to traditional apprenticeships, the HTA is seeking government support for the development of horticultural degree apprenticeships that would reflect the evolving breadth of roles, and the changing skills needs of the sector as it moves towards embracing automation and contributing to the achievement of the UK’s net zero and biodiversity goals.
It is also calling for an increase to resources for carrying out final assessments with apprentices, with many finding they are unable to complete their training as they face long waits at assessment gateway due to the lack of trained assessors. The HTA says investment and government support are needed to ensure that the end-point assessments required to complete horticulture apprenticeships are fully operational, accessible, and consistent.
Alan Down, President of the HTA said: “The environmental horticulture sector makes a huge contribution to the economy and is primed to play a leading role in progressing the UK’s sustainability plans. However, the sector can only continue to thrive and fulfil its potential with access to a steady stream of new talent. We need the government to review and strengthen its support for apprenticeships in our sector. That will be a win for businesses, young people and the environment.
“The Apprenticeship Levy system in its current form makes it difficult for businesses who pay the Levy and SMEs, within the environmental horticulture sector and beyond, to access the funding they need to take on apprentices. We urge the government to commit to reforming the Levy so that it can become a viable training option, as was originally intended. This, along with fully operational and accessible end-point assessments, will enable our apprentices to complete their training and take their place in the workforce.”
Geoff Caeser, Business Development Director at Allensmore Nurseries said: “Apprenticeships are a huge opportunity for the business and for the individual learner. The challenge is finding the right people. It is a commitment, and hard work when you have a job, but you get rewarded with both the qualification and the potential to move on within a business. For those people who want careers in horticulture, from technical to sales, apprenticeships are a brilliant way to achieve this.”
The Association of Professional Landscapers (APL), a landscaping specialist group within the HTA, runs a two-year apprenticeship programme which sees current employees, as well as new entrants into the industry undergo practical training led by industry experts.
Phil Tremayne, General Manager at the Association of Professional Landscapers (APL) said: “Apprenticeships are an invaluable way of attracting new recruits into the sector, as well as upskilling existing talent. Our apprenticeship programme is designed by the industry, for the industry, and is continually quality assured by our team. Our members need all the support they can get from government to be able to give their apprentices the best training possible.”
A total of 1,169 people started apprenticeships in the horticulture sector in 2021/22, a 6% increase from 1,105 in 20201. The arboriculture, forestry, horticulture & landscape trailblazer group – a group made up of representatives from more than 70 organisations, which has championed and coordinated apprenticeships in the sector since 2014 – has developed eight apprenticeship programmes for the sector spanning a variety of roles, including arborists, forest operatives, business administrators and horticulture and landscape operatives and supervisors.