Horticultural careers need urgent image makeover and government recognition

Wednesday 18 April 2012

‘Horticulture: A Career to be Proud of conference’, Wednesday 18 April 2012, part of the UK’s first National Gardening Week www.nationalgardeningweek.org.uk

Horticulture is for dropouts, it’s unskilled and unfulfilling, according to young people. These are the findings of a new survey1 commissioned by the Royal Horticultural Society. Almost 70% of 18-year-olds questioned believe horticultural careers should only be considered by people who have “failed academically”. Nearly 50% of under-25s thinks horticulture is an “unskilled career”.

The RHS is so concerned about this image problem and the looming skills gap threatening horticulture’s workforce, that it is hosting a conference today (18 April 2012). School careers advisors, students and colleges will sit alongside MPs and renowned gardeners including Alan Titchmarsh to decide what should be done to promote the diversity of horticultural careers.

RHS Director General Sue Biggs will call for a plan of action and list of recommendations to change perceptions and engage more young people. She believes the Government needs to better recognise and promote horticultural careers and qualifications.

“It is quite staggering that whilst youth unemployment is at an all-time high, the horticultural industry has more skilled vacancies than it can fill in the UK despite the recession,’ Sue Biggs says.

“The current education policy is not helping raise awareness of horticultural careers to young people. Today there is a lack of specialist technical skills, especially at higher levels, yet horticulture is not included within the school curriculum, and university degree courses with horticulture are decreasing. On top of this our survey showed that horticultural career opportunities were not highlighted to 70% of people when leaving education.

“A poor perception of the sector has resulted in minimal formal education and training schemes. Thousands of young people are missing out on incredible career opportunities – from gardening and garden design, the science of climate change and researching new pests and diseases to looking after the turf at Wimbledon or teaching children.

“We must promote career progression,” Sue says, “and commit to delivering a framework of horticultural teaching and training through current initiatives, including the RHS Campaign for School Gardening, horticultural colleges and qualifications, and new schemes, working with partners across horticulture.”

The UK’s horticultural industry is worth £9 billion and employs nearly 200,000 people. The sector is still buoyant even through the recent economic downturn. There is now concern that not enough young people are getting the skills to fill the minimum requirement of 11,000 jobs that the sector needs over the next eight years. A report2 from Lantra (the Sector Skills Council for the land-based and environmental industries) highlights that one in seven employers cite “insufficient skills amongst new entrants” as the issue of greatest importance.

Alan Titchmarsh, who will tell the conference that we must work harder at promoting why gardening matters, says, “There are now over 1 million under-25s out of work, so why is the Government not doing more to help funnel skilled young people into a sector where there are opportunities?

“Through studying horticulture you could end up organising some of the most creative, artistic events in the world or as a scientist working on drought solutions for horticulture,” Alan says, “but students aren’t seeing the link between their science, art or design courses and jobs on offer in horticulture. We need to act now to change perceptions and ensure our children grow up with a greater respect for and love of the tremendous natural riches that surround them in a country that can boast the best gardens and the finest gardening tradition in the world.”

David Winn, Lantra Industry Partnership Manager, says, “Whilst there is still much work to be done to promote horticultural careers, over recent years the industry has taken positive steps to come together to speak with one voice. Lantra wholeheartedly supports this RHS initiative as it links closely with our objectives and we welcome the opportunity to work alongside them in this exciting project.”

The RHS is also inviting speakers and colleges to participate in ‘Horticulture: A Career to be Proud of’ events at all four RHS Gardens: at Wisley in Surrey, Hyde Hall in Essex, Harlow Carr in North Yorkshire and Rosemoor in Devon. Visit www.nationalgardeningweek.org.uk



Notes to editors

Notes to the Editor:

For more information, please contact Hayley Monckton 07764 787037 or 020 7821 3045 or hayleymonckton@rhs.org.uk

1 A survey of 1,000 adults, aged 18 to 56+, across the whole of the United Kingdom in March 2012, revealed:
• Nearly 70% of 18-year-olds do not think gardening is a career to be proud of.
• Almost 50% of under-25-year-olds do not think gardening is a career to be proud of.
• 79% of over 40-year-olds do think gardening is a career to be proud of.
• Almost 50% of under-25-year-olds do not think gardening is a skilled career.
• Nearly 70% of 18-year-olds think gardening should only be considered as a career if you have failed academically.
• Nearly 80% of under-25-year-olds are not interested in a career in horticulture.
• More than 40% of people cite not enough horticultural knowledge as a reason they are not interested in a career in horticulture.
• Almost 25% say not knowing enough about careers in horticulture is why they are not interested in a career in horticulture.
• 70% of all adults questioned said horticulture/gardening was not highlighted to them as an opportunity by their careers advisor or teacher when leaving education.

2 Lantra Horticulture, Landscaping and Sports Turf factsheet, 2010–2011
Future challenges: green space sector – one in seven employers cited ‘insufficient skills amongst new entrants’ to be of greatest importance over the next two years

The research summary factsheet can be found at: www.lantra.co.uk/Downloads/Research/Skills-assessment/Hort,-landscaping---sports-turf-v2-(2010-2011).aspx
Horticulture Size, Structure and Skills research: The new research, that highlights the changes in the workforce numbers by looking at individual job roles, and not business types is at: www.lantra.co.uk/getattachment/40c4c663-9c17-4475-bceb-3e21de3f2ec4/Horticulture-Landscaping---Sports-Turf-Industry-in-GB-(2011).asp
Further background research
A report by Lantra on behalf of English Heritage (March 2012) – Cultivating Skills in Historic and Botanic Gardens:
The age structure showed only a small number of younger entrants into the profession (6%); the lack of young entrants in the profession was flagged as a matter for concern.

The Institute of Horticulture has adopted definitions of the terms Horticulture, Horticulturist and Horticultural – see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horticulture and below

Horticulture is the art, science, technology and business of intensive plant cultivation for human use. It is practiced from the individual level in a garden up to the activities of a multinational corporation. It is very diverse in its activities, incorporating plants for food (fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, culinary herbs) and non-food crops (flowers, trees & shrubs, turf-grass, hops, grapes, medicinal herbs). It also includes related services in plant conservation, landscape restoration, landscape and garden design/construction/maintenance, horticultural therapy, and much more. This wide range of food, medicinal, environmental, and social products and services are all fundamental to developing and maintaining human health and wellbeing.

Horticulturists apply the knowledge, skills and technologies used to grow intensively produced plants for human food & non-food uses and for personal or social needs. Their work involves plant propagation and cultivation with the aim of improving plant growth, yields, quality, nutritional value and resistance to insects, diseases and environmental stresses. They work as gardeners, growers, therapists, designers and technical advisors in the food and non-food sectors of horticulture.

A Gardener is a person that tends to a garden and is therefore a horticulturist. However, not all horticulturists are gardeners.

Horticultural scientists focus on the research that underpins horticultural knowledge, skills, technologies, education and commerce. Horticultural science encompasses all of the pure sciences – mathematics, physics, chemistry, geology and biology – as well as related sciences and technologies that underpin horticulture, such as plant pathology, soil science, entomology, weed science and many other scientific disciplines. It also includes the social sciences, such as education, commerce, marketing, healthcare and therapies, that enhance horticulture’s contribution to society.

About National Gardening Week

The first ever National Gardening Week, 16–22 April 2012, is action packed to get the nation growing. The RHS hopes its plans will help trigger ideas and grow momentum to engage more schools, communities, gardeners, organisations and the garden trade to support the week. www.nationalgardeningweek.org.uk

Saturday and Sunday, 14–15 April
The weekend before National Gardening Week, local Britain in Bloom groups are inviting everyone to volunteer to help transform their community and celebrate the 2012 launch of the nationwide campaign.

Monday 16 April
The RHS Members’ Advisory Service will open its doors and provide a Gardening SOS service for non-members. For one day anyone in the UK can gain from one of the charity’s major membership benefits by asking experts for help with thorny gardening problems and get gardens blooming.

Tuesday 17 April
This day is themed Gardens of the Nation, when the RHS will ask everyone in the UK to send their best pictures of their garden for the charity’s award-winning Lindley Library archives to provide a historical record of gardens today.

Wednesday 18 April
The RHS is coordinating ‘Horticulture: A Career to be Proud of’ day, headed up by Alan Titchmarsh, to communicate how horticulture is a career to be proud of. Talks and workshops by inspirational people who work across the gardening world will take place at RHS headquarters in Vincent Square London and at all four RHS Gardens in Surrey, North Yorkshire, Essex and Devon.

Thursday 19 April
The theme is Gardening for the Environment, when the RHS will provide extensive advice and top tips to encourage and help the nation to be greener gardeners. Helping people to compost is one of the initiatives the charity will be driving forward, and the RHS is asking local authorities throughout Britain to support this.

Friday 20 April
Today is all about getting kids gardening. The RHS will launch a new Campaign for School Gardening initiative at its first major gardening show of the year, RHS Show Cardiff (20–22 April).

Saturday and Sunday 21–22 April
There will be fun and interactive activities for gardeners of all ages and levels of experience at the four RHS Gardens, including opportunities to converse and get growing with RHS gardeners and committee members.

About the RHS

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s foremost gardening charity, helping and inspiring millions of people to garden. We do this at our gardens and shows and through our scientific research, publications, libraries and our education and community programmes. We are entirely funded by our members, visitors and supporters.

RHS membership is for anyone with an interest in gardening. Support the RHS and secure a healthy future for gardening. For more information call: 0845 130 4646, or visit www.rhs.org.uk

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262

RHS Headquarters
80 Vincent Square, London SW1P 2PE

RHS Garden Wisley
Woking, Surrey GU23 6QB
0845 260 9000

RHS Garden Rosemoor
Great Torrington, Devon EX38 8PH
0845 265 8072

RHS Garden Hyde Hall
Creephedge Lane, Rettendon, Chelmsford, Essex CM3 8ET
0845 265 8071

RHS Garden Harlow Carr
Crag Lane, Harrogate, North Yorkshire HG3 1QB
01423 565418

RHS Show Cardiff
20–22 April 2012
Bute Park, Cardiff Castle, Cardiff CF10 3EA
0844 871 7688



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About the RHS

The RHS believes that gardening improves the quality of life and that everyone should have access to great garden experiences. As a charity we help to bring gardening into people's lives and support gardeners of all levels and abilities; whether they are expert horticulturists or children who are planting seeds for the very first time.

RHS membership is for anyone with an interest in gardening. Support the RHS and secure a healthy future for gardening. For more information call: 0845 130 4646, or visit www.rhs.org.uk

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262