Why apprenticeships are key to addressing the skills shortage across the green space sector and how they could benefit your organisation.
The apprenticeship framework
An apprenticeship is not a qualification in itself. It is a framework that contains a number of separately certified elements that cover the skills, competence and knowledge required for a job. The apprentice must complete all elements of the framework.
The new framework for the apprenticeship in horticulture fits within the qualifications and credit framework, which was introduced in 2009 and is based on ‘bite-sized’ learning. Lantra has worked closely with industry to develop the apprenticeship in horticulture framework and ensure the training is relevant to the sector. Representatives from the green space industry have contributed to sector-approved job profiles and national occupational standards which explain the skills and understanding needed to do a particular job effectively. Apprentices are assessed against these standards.
The framework for the apprenticeship in horticulture includes:
- a competence based element: the diploma in work-based horticulture
- key/functional skills: either maths and English or communication and application of number
- employer requirements: emergency first aid plus one other legislative or nationally recognised occupational test
- a module on employee rights and responsibilities.
Some employers build additional qualifications into their apprentice’s training programme. See training your apprentice for more information.
Diploma in work-based horticulture
Apprentices work towards the diploma in work-based horticulture. Most apprentices will complete a Level 2 diploma, although some may be suitable for the Level 3 diploma which forms part of the advanced apprenticeship in horticulture.
The diploma offers six pathways relating to specific areas of the green space sector:
- production horticulture
- sports turf
- parks, gardens and green space
- parks, gardens and green space (cemeteries).
Each unit has a certain number of credits attached to it. The apprentice must achieve at least 37 credits to get their diploma. Every pathway includes a number of mandatory units. The rest of the diploma is made up of a wide range of optional units that the apprentice and employer can choose from.
In each pathway, three of the mandatory units make up the knowledge-based element of the diploma. These three units are assessed independently, while all others are assessed by the learning provider. The following units are included in all pathways:
- health and safety
- personal performance
- developing effective working relationships.
The diploma replaces the NVQ which apprentices completed before the new framework was introduced in August 2009. (Diplomas have also been introduced for 14-19 year olds – including one in environment and land-based studies – but these should not be confused with apprenticeship diplomas).
Apprentices complete independently accredited tests to demonstrate their competency in key skills areas. These are Level 1 qualifications in either maths and English or communication and application of number.
Apprentices also complete an emergency first aid course, plus one legislative or nationally recognised occupational test relevant to the industry (for example, a proficiency test covering the safe use of pesticides or operating specialist machinery).
Employee rights and responsibilities
As part of the induction process, apprentices must complete a Lantra workbook on employee rights and responsibilities.
Training and learning
Most of the training for the apprenticeship in horticulture is ‘on the job’ at your premises – the apprentice gains practical skills by working alongside your other employees. Apprentices also attend training away from the workplace to develop the underpinning knowledge required for the job. This part of the training can be provided by a local college or by a specialist training provider. There is no set length of time for completing an apprenticeship framework, but most horticulture apprenticeships last around two years. See training your apprentice.
You will need to provide your apprentice with a mentor who can support them with their learning and development. See supporting your apprentice.
After the apprenticeship
After completing their apprenticeship framework, the apprentice will ideally progress their career within your organisation.
Some organisations take apprentices on as permanent employees from day one, while others opt for a fixed-term training contract with no guarantee of employment at the end. If the apprenticeship is based on a training contract rather than a permanent position, you will have no obligation to employ the apprentice, but they might expect to be first in line for any appropriate vacancy.
The apprentice could decide to find employment in another organisation or to become self-employed. Whatever the outcome, your organisation will have made a valuable contribution to improving skills in the green space sector.