HortAbility – making horticulture accessible for all

YMCA Training offers a route into professional landscaping, regardless of ability.
31 October 2019

YMCA Training – in association with the Monday Charitable Trust - is offering a free Level 1 City & Guilds qualification in basic horticulture for people with disabilities. After a successful first course, we’re recruiting for the next one, which will run in Salford from Friday 31st January for would-be landscapers across the region.

YMCA’s practical horticulture course gives people living with learning disabilities, mental health issues or a physical disability, the opportunity to learn professional gardening in an inclusive and intimate environment. They’ll gain a free, nationally recognised industry qualification and support into work. 

The first course covered turf care, plant and weed identification, plant production, pruning, fertilisers, soil preparation and hanging basket production. Depending on the severity of the disability, a work placement is also included. Students have been learning about horticulture both outdoors and inside the classroom to develop their skills. The course is 80% practical.

“More focussed on the learner and less on numbers”

On completion of the 10-week course, graduates are also offered support with job applications and interviews or advice on further training in the horticulture industry. As YMCA Tutor, Rob Ironmonger explains, YMCA Training cares about individuals rather than targets:

“The YMCA is more focussed on the learner and less on numbers, but with colleges it’s all about bums on seats. We care about what the learner will get at the end of the course and what they can move onto. My job is to get people work as well as teach them. I’m looking for their next step and hope to find them something, even if it’s only a part-time job. They just want to learn and get into work.”

The course has attracted a range of learners.

Christopher: “I’ve discovered my passion and found what I want to do in life.”

Christopher, aged 33, has suffered from anxiety since childhood and although not working at the moment, has worked in several industries. He was referred to the course by Start - a charity which helps people with anxiety get back into work. Christopher, like his plants, is thriving on the course and impressively recalled all 15 plant groups both in English and Latin:

“When I first came here, I put a lot of pressure on myself to pass and get back into work, but each time I come back, I gradually overcome that hurdle and today I feel relaxed and happy.

This course has exceeded my expectations and given me a passion to move forward. Since coming here, I’ve discovered my passion and found out what I want to do in life as a career. I feel at home handling plants. I was born for this environment.

Hopefully I’ll find a job with what I’ve learnt - planting, pruning, maintaining pitches, that kind of thing or I’ll go on to do some more training at Level 2.”

James: “Before this course, I was sat inside 24/7, now it’s got me out and about!”

James has a hearing impairment and has been unemployed for over three years. He heard about the course through his local job centre:

“I got taught gardening by my mother, but things have changed in 30 years and I need my memory jogging! There’s lots of stuff I didn’t know about like the PH balance of soil and how to grow different plants. I’ve gained more knowledge compared to what I knew years ago.

This course has got me motivated. Before the course, I was sat inside the house 24/7. I’ve enjoyed getting out of the house the most and meeting different people. I like chatting with other learners and helping them if they’re struggling.

I’d like to learn about garden chemicals and health and safety next. I want to get a job that’s anything to do with gardening.”

Daniel: “I want to work in a garden centre because it’s full of wonderful things.”

25-year-old Daniel has autism and lives in assisted housing. His dad, John – who accompanies him on the course - wants to nurture Daniel’s love of gardening and help him achieve a qualification at the same time. The learning environment is really important to Daniel:

“I’m pleased I’ve done this course. I feel safe here. My favourite thing is planting, but I struggle with the prickly weeds!”

Due to the severity of Daniel’s autism, John - at first - had reservations about the course, but he needn’t have worried:

“Dan is very vulnerable - somebody needs to be with him all the time. At first we weren’t sure whether Daniel could do this course because we didn’t know how intense it would be, but after the first week, we thought it was brilliant and Rob’s been amazing. It’s boosted Dan’s confidence.

I know Dan is safe here because he’s calm and relaxed. He’s definitely comfortable here. He’s loved using the leaf blower and wants one for Christmas!

I didn’t know you could learn so much in 10 weeks. It’s incredible. I would recommend this course to anyone.”

Where do I sign up?

The next HortAbility course start is on hold ue to COVID-19.

To determine everyone’s learner style, each student undertakes a simple VAK test (visual, auditory or kinaesthetic) before the course to maximise their learning. Subject to the severity of the learning disability, additional support can be provided including the capture of oral answers instead of written ones.

HortAbility will run at The Old Coach House, 25 Bolton Road, Pendleton, Salford. M6 7HL.
To register your interest, please email bryony.smethurst@ymca.co.uk or call 0161 820 3835.