By Ros Burnley, PlantNetwork Board Member & Adrow Ltd.

It is National Apprenticeship Week (4th-8th March 2019) and a good time to celebrate that the horticulture industry has been working since 2014 to take advantage of apprenticeship reforms in England that put employers in control of apprenticeship content.  Horticulture was at the leading edge of these reforms.  There is now a good choice of apprenticeships including arboristhorticulture / landscape operativelandscape / horticulture supervisor and crop technician.  There are some more generic apprenticeships that are being used by horticultural employers including operations / departmental managersenior leader, chartered manager and team leader / supervisor.

We also need your help to define new apprenticeship roles in horticulture. Scroll to the end of the page for information on what you can do by 5th April.

What is an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are programmes of study undertaken while working.  Apprentices gain skills, knowledge and experience in a specific job role.  A training provider will normally support the employer to make sure the apprentice covers the knowledge and skills they need to finish the programme.  The delivery of the taught part is very flexible and some training providers do all the learning in the work place, some have distance learning options and others will bring apprentices into a college for day or block release. 

The new style apprenticeships in England (sometimes called trailblazers or standards) are designed to be a core, transferrable occupation, which will be useful to employers of differing subsectors, sizes, types and locations. Trained apprentices will have a consistent skill set that employers can use across their industry. Another significant change is that apprentices are tested at the end of their apprenticeships to demonstrate they can combine their skills and knowledge. These tests are done by an assessment organisation without any connection to the employer or the training provider.

What funding is available?

The training and assessment for apprentices is 90% covered by Government funding for most employers under the ‘co investment’ scheme.  If your organisation has a paybill over £3m, you will pay the apprenticeship levy.  This is 0.5% of the paybill minus an allowance of £15,000.  This money goes into an online account and can be used to cover 100% of the eligible training and assessment costs.  Detailed guidance on the levy is available on the Government website.

Each apprenticeship has a ‘band’ allocated that sets the maximum per learner that can be claimed, and the employer should negotiate the cost with their training provider within this band.  There are ‘incentive payments’ for certain circumstances and extra charges for some items that a training provider should be able to advise on.  The employer must pay the apprentice’s wage and give them 20% of their time ‘off the job’.  This might be time being taught or time to study.    

Sources of help and support

Employers who are considering taking on an apprentice should look at the detailed content of the apprenticeship on the Institute for Apprenticeship website and also at the Government resources on taking on an apprentice.  Most employers will then need to find a training provider who should be able to advise them on getting started.  The Government ‘find apprenticeship training’ search is a useful starting point, although this does not always reflect the most up to date position on who is offering an apprenticeship.  The Royal Forestry Society has a list of training providers on their website for arborists and also those who are considering offering it.  Another good starting point is the Landex and National Land Based College (UK) websites, although these will not include private training providers.  Try and talk to more than one training provider because there are a range of different delivery options available and always clarify with them if they are offering the new ‘standards’ or the old-style apprenticeships called ‘frameworks’.  These remain available until 2020.

Professional apprenticeships for horticulture

Apprenticeships can now be developed at higher or degree levels, whereas previously they were focused on operative or supervisor occupations. These programmes are funded in the same way, although they often attract higher funding bands due to the difficulty and length of the study period. Degree or masters-level apprenticeships, such as Chartered Manager, Project Manager, Solicitor, Accountancy/Taxation Professional and Senior Insurance Professional, are already available. Regulated professions that previously focused on degree or classroom-based training are embracing apprenticeships to develop and diversify their workforce. This is partially driven by the apprenticeship levy, with companies looking for ways to utilise funds that they are actively contributing to. But this isn’t the only reason higher or degree-level apprenticeship standards are being developed.

We need your help now

The arboriculture, forestry, horticulture and landscape apprenticeship group undertook a survey last year to identify need for more advanced roles in these industries.  This provided a remit to look at this in more detail and an analysis of job descriptions is underway. 

The roles being investigated are all management roles at different levels of seniority.  If you employ any of these roles– or something fairly equivalent – and feel they are suitable for an apprenticeship, we would be very grateful if you could send in your job descriptions for analysis alongside how many apprentices you might take on for each role.  The deadline is the 5th April. Please email Ros Burnley any job descriptions from the broad occupations currently identified:

  • Arboriculture / woodland technician including: tree officer, woodland officer, assistant tree officer, junior arboriculture consultant,  assistant site manager, arboriculturalist
  • Arboriculture / forest / woodland manager including: tree officer, forester, district forester, forestry works manager, technical forest manager, senior arboriculture consultant, senior arboricultural officer, arboricultural contracts manager, arboricultural area manager, forestry area manager.
  • Horticulture manager, including job titles such as head gardener, garden manager, consultant, site manager, horticultural project manager, technical manager and technical support manager.