The theme for this year’s National Apprenticeship Week is ‘build the future’ and that is exactly what our garden apprentice Caroline Jones has done at Englefield.
Caroline began her apprenticeship in September 2020, and in March 2022, after completing her final exams, she is due to join the Englefield House gardening team as an employee.
“It was a scary jump going from full-time employment in retail to a gardening apprenticeship, but I wouldn’t change it for the world,” Caroline said.
“I’d never have been able to start a career in horticulture without this opportunity. You can only learn so much in a classroom environment, you need that hands-on experience to really learn the job and that’s what this apprenticeship has given me.
“The team has been so welcoming and patient. They have such a variety of skills between them, from operating machinery to tending the kitchen garden, knowledge of flower varieties to managing hedgerows and the garden landscape. They’ve given me real confidence in myself, and I can’t thank them enough for making me feel like a valuable member of the team.”
Caroline added: “With gardening, you don’t see results right away, so it has been extremely rewarding in recent months to see the progress of my work. The formal beds have been a particular area of focus and they are really starting to thrive.
“Plus, my new role has really improved my mental health, I look forward to going into work each day.”
Caroline has been spending four days a week at Englefield and one day each week at Sparsholt College learning about theory of horticulture, health and safety, and business.
To conclude her course, Caroline has completed an online exam covering plant names, health and safety and theoretical elements of her course. She will also be assessed on three of 15 key competencies in a practical exam, as well as having a professional discussion with a course examiner.
The Englefield Estate team are so confident in her skills that they are arranging for Caroline to begin full-time employment right away.
Sue Broughton, Head Gardener, said: “This is the first apprenticeship that the Gardens team has had, and we have found the whole process easy and straightforward, which is down to two things. Firstly, Caroline’s enthusiasm and desire to learn has made it easy to fit her into our team.
“Secondly, we’ve had excellent support from the team at Sparsholt College. We worked with apprenticeships co-ordinator Karen Jackson who assessed both Englefield and Caroline before matching us together. She saw the potential in Caroline and also what we could offer her.
“The whole process has been extremely rewarding. I’ve been able to give someone the chance to begin a new career and to pass on knowledge of something that I’m passionate about.
“We have seen real progress in Caroline. She sees what needs to be done before we ask her and we’re seeing her hard work on our formal beds in particular come to fruition. She works to such a high standard and always goes beyond what is asked of her.
“She’s been a pleasure to work with from the outset and a real asset to the team. It was an easy decision to keep her on.”
Sue continued: “I’d highly recommend an apprenticeship to employers. I think the key is finding the right college to work with, one that is going to find the best person for your business and also provide ongoing support on what you need to offer as an employer.
“And for those looking to make a career change, it is a great way to learn new skills and get practical knowledge to be able to progress and succeed on a new path.”
National Apprenticeship Week runs from 7th to 13th February 2022 and aims to highlight the benefits apprenticeships can have on individuals, businesses, and local communities. The week-long campaign is a celebration of encouraging people to achieve their career goals.