Horticulture apprentices at Plymouth City Council complete a period of work experience before starting their apprenticeship programme, to make sure they understand what working in parks is all about.
Building work experience into the recruitment process
Plymouth City Council’s parks department takes on two apprentices every two years and work experience forms an important part of the recruitment process. Nick Jones, principal parks services manager at Plymouth City Council, explains: “We aim to have each apprentice join us on a work placement before starting the apprenticeship properly and getting underway with the level 2 framework.
“It’s a good way to make sure that the apprentice fully understands what working in parks is all about. It means that we don’t get apprentices dropping out because the job failed to match up to their expectations.”
Supporting college work with projects in the workplace
The apprentices attend college one day each week. As the college is around an hour away, the employer provides a minibus service to transport the apprentices between their homes and the college. The parks team works with the college to devise projects for the students to complete in the workplace, to complement their college-based learning and further develop their skills. “Our technical officers talk to the college about what kind of topics and tasks are coming for the apprentices and then plan special projects for them to complete,” says Nick. “One recent project was for the apprentices to design, plant and maintain a bedding display, including calculating the number of plants that they’d need.”
Using coaching to pass on specialist skills
The apprentices work closely with senior gardeners who coach them in specialist skills such as 3D carpet bedding and fine turf. “The senior gardeners find it very rewarding to be able to pass on their skills to the apprentices,” comments Nick. “At the moment we provide informal support for staff who act as coaches but we’re looking into training courses that will help us develop our capacity for coaching.”