Working in the land sector: Employee case study

Chris Duggan describes his job as a grounds maintenance contractor.

What is your role?

At the moment I am working in a plantation where I am carrying out all the tasks that arise when looking after a woodland garden. These include weeding, mowing and pruning.

I go to college one day a week, where I am studying for my RHS Certificate in Horticulture. I got the Level 2 Diploma in Horticulture in my first year. I will be going on to study a Level 3 Diploma in my third year.

The Level 2 Diploma involved being assessed in the workplace on a range of horticultural tasks and attending college one day a week, for lectures that gave the background knowledge on how and why the tasks are carried out.

The RHS part of the course involves lectures one day a week on plant science and maintaining plant health. At the end of this part of the course I will sit written exams on these subjects. The Level 3 Diploma will involve learning leadership skills and more in-depth skills on how to manage myself and tasks.

What do you like about your job?

I enjoy working outside and developing the variety of skills used in horticulture. These skills involve working within a team of experienced staff and learning a wide range of practical jobs like pruning wisteria, mowing fine lawns, cutting formal hedges and looking after roses.

What’s not so great about it?

It can be cold and wet in the winter, but it is OK with warm clothes and we tend to find warm tasks to carry out in the winter, like pruning.

How did you get to where you are?

I studied A levels at school (English language, fine art, graphic products and IT), but having asked for some careers advice from a relative in the industry, I looked for an apprenticeship where I could learn on the job and get some vocational qualifications. I knew I liked gardening because I had helped my dad in our garden. I applied for an apprenticeship scheme and was fortunate to get a place.

I made it to the day of short-listed applicants, where about 50 of us went to meet staff, the grounds maintenance contractors and the college. The final shortlist of candidates was drawn up and I was lucky to be one of the three applicants selected for an interview.

What do you want to do next?

I will definitely continue working in the industry and I am thinking of applying for the Kew Diploma course when I finish my apprenticeship in 2016.

The Kew Diploma is a higher-level qualification in horticulture and involves learning about an extensive collection of plants, both outdoor and tender plants. The course lasts three years and is equivalent to a degree. With this qualification I could work anywhere in the world.

What advice would you give young people thinking of doing your job in the future?

Be prepared to put up with uncomfortable working conditions outdoors at times, but stick with it because the role is very rewarding.

The best thing about the job is looking back at a completed task and seeing that it has been done well. It is even better when a member of the public gives us some praise for a job well done.

A grounds maintenance contractor

Chris Duggan, a grounds maintenance contractor

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