Horticulturalists learn more about apprenticeships

YMCA Training and BALI host their first ever London breakfast event
11 April 2019

Following the launch of their partnership in October 2018, YMCA Training and BALI - The British Association of Landscape Industries - hosted their first breakfast networking event, where horticulture professionals from across the capital were invited to learn about industry apprenticeships at the YMCA Club.

The event was co-hosted by Sallyann Smith from YMCA Training, which has been delivering horticulture apprenticeships across the UK for nearly 30 years and currently has over 150 landscaping apprentices on their books. Stephen Ensell from BALI co-hosted the event who has access to over 900 landscaping professionals from across the country. Guest speaker and Diversity and Inclusion HR Advisor at Historic Royal Palaces, Swazi Rodgers, has recently taken on a YMCA horticulture apprentice for the first time and shared her experience. 

YMCA Training has become one of Britain’s largest voluntary sector Further Education Training Providers. The event showcased YMCA Training’s depth of knowledge of apprenticeships within the horticulture space. YMCA Training boasts a 27 year partnership with Manchester United Football Club who offer Turf Management apprenticeships. They also deliver apprenticeships for idverde - the largest landscaping and grounds maintenance service provider in the UK and housing association, Catalyst, who currently have 27 YMCA apprentices on their books.  

YMCA Training develop “valued members of the workforce”

Senior Business Development Executive, Sallyann Smith, explains YMCA Training’s gold standard service:

“We improve the productivity of UK businesses through high quality training programmes. What makes us different from other training providers, is that we get to know our employers and how their business works. We put together packages which best suit their unique and changing business needs - we don’t do one size fits all. We understand what they are looking for and how we can support that. We make their apprenticeship journey as seamless as possible. Our tutors’ breadth of knowledge and the opportunity for growth is huge. It’s an exciting time to be part of the apprenticeship world.”

YMCA Training is an OFSTED accredited education provider. OFSTED (Government Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills), which rated YMCA Training “good with some pockets of outstanding provision” during its last inspection in January 2017. The OFSTED report says:

“YMCA Training Managers collaborate very well with employers to develop courses that successfully meet local, regional and national priorities. Tutors use highly effective and flexible training and assessment activities, eg, tutors schedule visits to accommodate the business needs of employers and apprentices’ shift patterns. Apprentices are confident and articulate. They develop good personal, technical and employability skills that make them valued members of the workforce.”

Employers won’t lose their YMCA apprentices to college

Hampton Court Palace took on their first YMCA Horticulture apprentice, Dan, in January. Swazi recommended YMCA Training to her employer because of the positive experience she had with them in her previous role:

“I had a very positive feeling about YMCA Training from previous experience. I could also see that they had a lot of horticulture experience and it’s good to go with someone who knows what they’re doing. The big selling point was the distance learning, because losing an apprentice one day a week to college is a big thing. If you have a tutor coming to see the apprentice on site instead, it means that their manager can keep planning work as usual and that work can be part of the apprentice’s assessment process. Face to face learning is really important and creates more natural feedback about how the work is going.”

Getting the right candidate

Swazi is also impressed with how ‘employer focused’ the YMCA apprenticeship appears to be:

“YMCA Training have been really pro-active in enabling us to do things which work for us. They are brilliant at helping us to set up assessments for potential apprentices - together we create practical tasks which establish if candidates have thought about what’s involved and whether they’re switched on. Then we have informal conversations about what they’re interested in. Working together and deciding on this process has worked really well for us. They stuck with us and we got the right candidate.”

Creating a pipeline of future employees

In addition to growing the pool of horticulture talent for employers, Swazi believes we also have a responsibility to our young people:

“We’re passing on skills to Dan for him to do this job in future. Dan was someone who was very interested in landscaping, but who hadn’t been given the opportunity. From day one, he has done brilliantly - he’s a committed, hard worker who turns up on time. He fits in with the team and enjoys it, plus he’s getting a really positive experience which he appreciates. Dan has helped me argue the case for more gardening apprentices. In the end, he’s going to be fully skilled and able to work for us – that’s a really positive outcome. For us, apprenticeships create a pipeline of future employees.”