Saturday, 17 August 2019

How To Be A Professional Gardener - the joy of having a Trainee

I'm having a particularly interesting time in the garden now: at one of "my" gardens, I have a Trainee, and it's been utterly fascinating to be going back over the very basics of gardening.

Why do I have a Trainee? The garden owners, a wonderful young couple, want to encourage people, especially younger people, into careers in horticulture, in animal management, in land-based activities, and to that end they are very generously providing a rolling Trainee placement.

The placement runs for roughly a year, which allows the Trainee time to experience all aspects of working as a gardener, and to see the plants in all their seasons, ie in all their different phases.

During this time, the Trainee works alongside me for one day a week, being taught every aspect of everything I do, which is fantastic experience for them, and it's actually quite fun for me as well.

In fact, it's been quite a revelation to go back over what I consider to be very basic skills, including which tool to use for what, how to find the tool which fits you best, how to use these tools without straining or hurting yourself, and so on.

Our aim is to give the Trainee a flying start into being a self-employed Gardener, by giving them all the practical training they need, along with a good dollop of the business knowledge which is required, finishing up with a helping hand towards the end of the placement, to find their own self-employed Clients, as they gain confidence in their own abilities.

I already give one-day workshops on How To Be A Self-Employed Gardener (shameless plug, you've missed them for this year, but keep looking at the WFGA website for next year's dates: there will definitely be one in Oxfordshire, probably one in Staffordshire, and quite possibly one in East Anglia as well) but that's just about the business side of things, whereas this Trainee Placement is 100% practical: and best of all, instead of having to pay for tuition, the Trainee gets basic pay while they are learning!

As it's only for one day a week, they have four other days for doing other things, such as working part-time elsewhere, or studying: we give preference to someone who is doing the RHS level 2, which dovetails perfectly with our placement.  My current trainee has just finished their Level 2 course, and all the way through it we were able to discuss what they had just learned, go into it in more detail, look at practical examples of what they had been taught, sort out any misunderstandings, discuss any moral issues raised, and generally take it a step further.

We're just coming to the end of our second Trainee Placement, so I'm starting to look around for a new one: it's always a little bit sad when a Trainee leaves us, but it is quite exciting as well, because every new Trainee brings a desire to learn, a new set of questions, and their own particular brand of enthusiasm, which inspires and enlivens us.

Wish me luck in the search!

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