City of Birmingham
Birmingham City Council’s department of nature conservation and parks is the largest parks department in Europe.
It has multiple partners – both for delivering the parks service and training – and currently uses directly employed labour and two contractors, Quadron and Glendale. The council has a long tradition of providing good training, and its apprenticeship scheme restarted in 2008. The scheme is written into the green space maintenance contract.
Using the CLG grant
The green space apprenticeships grant has enabled two additional apprentices to be recruited, both NEETS (young people not in employment, education or training). The apprentices have full-time, permanent posts, giving them security. They start work on a temporary contract, however, to enable them and the department to assess their suitability before being made permanent.
The council looks for people who are keen and ambitious, and who want to work in their own time and continue studying after the apprenticeship to progress their careers.
Birmingham’s two-year apprenticeship is based on the national framework, but also includes the City and Guilds level 2 national diploma in horticulture. The apprentices also have the opportunity to be involved in events like the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, or an overseas visit. Bournville College delivers the NVQ, and Pershore, part of Warwickshire College, does the national diploma.
Steve Joynes, 24, works on the Selly Oak contract for Quadron. Steve started in 2002 on a temporary contract with Service Team, and transferred under TUPE first to Veolia, then to Quadron just after beginning his apprenticeship in 2008. He started college in September 2009. Steve is ambitious, and wants to run his own maintenance business at some time in the future – he has taken business studies as an evening course. He looks forward to each college day and enjoys working outdoors.
Chris Hicken, 22, started with the contractor in 2007 as temporary staff, and was made permanent in November 2008. He had previously been employed stripping industrial warehouses, but wanted to drive a Ransomes triple ride-on mower. He has since found that parks work is much more interesting than that! Chris already has the responsibility of being in charge of a gang, and enjoys the supervision aspect. He wants to progress his career at Quadron, and enjoys being able to study while doing the job.
James Dovey, 18, started a general council apprenticeship in 2008, studying level 1 horticulture with Bournville College. He transferred to the parks apprenticeship in August 2009 to do level 2 horticulture. After leaving school, James had a temporary job on a golf course before taking a City and Guilds national diploma in public services. He intended to go to university, but realised he liked to work outdoors. James was unemployed, and came to the council as a ‘NEET’. He wants to stay with the parks department, and would like to become a trainer.
James Dudley, 19, started in 2009 as a temporary worker, and then was accepted onto the apprenticeship. He has a national diploma in electrical engineering and experience of optical engineering and catering, but there were no jobs available. James likes the outdoor life, and enjoys the work and its variety. He wants to progress his career at Quadron, and finds it satisfying to have done a good job, especially when members of the public express their appreciation.
The mixed group of apprentices and other students studying the national diploma gives people from under-represented, but interested, groups the opportunity to become familiar with the apprenticeship scheme. Birmingham has also worked to recruit from ethnic minority groups with its Aston into Jobs initiative, three staff from which still work for the parks department.