Horticulture: An Industry At Crisis Point

Tuesday 14 May 2013

‘Horticulture Matters’ report calls for Government action to close skills gap

More than 70% of horticultural businesses cannot fill skilled vacancies, nearly 20% are forced to recruit overseas and almost 70% say career entrants are inadequately prepared for work. This gloomy picture is now clearly illustrated in a report presented by the horticultural industry to Government. Commitment to bridging the green skills gap is not only necessary, it is urgent.

The survey of 200 horticultural businesses confirmed an alarming shortage of skilled professionals in UK horticulture. The Horticulture Matters report*, which will be presented to Government the week before the RHS Chelsea Flower Show on 14 May 2013 at the House of Commons, demonstrates exactly how this skills gap is threatening Britain’s economy, environment and food security.

Dwindling numbers of people with horticultural skills simply means that the industry cannot meet the growing demands placed on it. The shortage impacts on every level of the industry: from the scientist researching plant diseases to the crop grower seeking a more sustainable secure harvest and the horticulturist advising architects on biodiversity in our cities.

The survey also found that 10% of vacancies take at least one year to fill. More than 80% of the survey respondents cited a poor perception of horticulture in schools and colleges as the issue, and 90% said it was because horticulture lacks career appeal.

Sue Biggs, Director General of the RHS, spearheading the Horticulture Matters report, said growing concern across the whole industry about the skills crisis has galvanised this unified call for Government action. “We’ve brought together Britain’s leading horticultural organisations to create this report,’ she said.

“We are unanimous in the belief that there must now be urgent action to save British horticulture and it must happen now. Our report calls on the Government, employers and those in the education system to take action to safeguard the critical role that horticulture plays in Britain today.

“This report isn't an unrealistic wish list of measures. It already includes pledges of investment and commitment from the industry. But if the skills gap is to close, Government has to play its part, too.

“Within the report there are solutions that both the horticultural industry and Government could embrace to safeguard the critical role that horticulture plays in Britain today and must continue to play in the future. We must act now to safeguard the critical role horticulture plays in Britain today and must continue to play in the future.”

In the Horticulture Matters report the horticultural industry recognises that it must work together to improve the perception of horticulture, by creating industry ambassadors and delivering a programme to promote horticultural careers.

The industry also believes that embedding horticulture across the national curriculum will encourage talented young people to further study the subject in higher education and to consider horticulture as a future career.

The report asks Government to prioritise horticulture within Research Council and other government research funding areas to equip Britain with the high level of skilled professionals the UK needs to tackle threats posed by pests and diseases and climate change.

Horticulture contributes £9 billion to the British economy each year as an industry. It employs 300,000 people from crop growers and gardeners to scientists, tree surgeons and turf specialists.


Notes to editors

For more information, please contact Hayley Monckton in the RHS Press Office on 020 7821 3045 or email hayleymonckton@rhs.org.uk

Photographs are available to download at www.picselect.com (register online free of charge).

*The Horticulture Matters survey and report was commissioned by Britain’s leading horticultural organisations, including the Institute of Horticulture, British Growers Association, HTA and Lantra.

Visit the website for horticultural careers www.growcareers.info for information on careers in horticulture and opportunities

For a copy of the full report please get in touch with the RHS Press Office.

About the RHS
The Royal Horticultural Society was founded in 1804 by Sir Joseph Banks and John Wedgwood for the encouragement and improvement of the science, art and practice of horticulture. We held our first flower shows in 1820, were granted a Royal Charter in 1861 and acquired RHS Garden Wisley, the first of our gardens, in 1903. From our first meetings in a small room off London’s Piccadilly, we have grown to become the world’s largest gardening charity.

Today the RHS is committed to providing a voice for all gardeners. We are driven by a simple love of plants and a belief that gardeners make the world a better place. 209 years on we continue to safeguard and advance the science, art and practice of horticulture, creating displays that inspire people to garden. In all aspects of our work we help gardeners develop by sharing our knowledge of plants, gardens and the environment.

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/join  

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262


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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