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Chief Executive Wayne Grills responds to OHRG report

15 Sep 2021 | BALI News

With the Ornamental Horticulture Roundtable Group's recent launch of their state of the nation report into the industry and its future, our Chief Executive Wayne Grills addresses a key finding of the report: the skills shortage.

People are at the heart of everything we do. Part of our industry’s success has been how it has nurtured the technical skills of its workforce, including supporting apprenticeships and T-Levels.

Our accredited members alone, of which there are around 960, have a combined annual turnover of around £15.3bn and employ over 179,000 staff who design, construct and maintain landscape schemes from small residential gardens through to large public realm schemes, MOD sites, local authorities, retail and office parks and parks and gardens. But to make our growth ambitions a reality and compete in a global marketplace our industry – and the future of the planet - relies on developing the next generation of horticulturists and landscape professionals.

The skills shortage and skills gaps are huge for our industry right now and there are many concerns over engaging the right numbers and quality of employees in the next decade or so.

The industry must work with government and training providers to ensure workers are furnished with skills to support the growing industry and the inevitable demand for sufficient numbers of jobs and products associated with the green revolution.

Domestic workers must be offered relevant, accessible and funded training which reflects the industry’s requirement for breadth and depth in skills, at entry, developing and advanced levels.  Ensuring nationally strategized and funded training at a local level will allow the industry to reach its potential.

Until automation becomes a reality, the sector demands workers of all disciplines, equipped with skills to design, construct and manage a diverse range of landscapes and horticultural processes, which form a part of the often spoken green revolution. The ornamental horticulture and landscaping industry has a proud record of hiring and investing in UK workers, and it is essential this process continues to ensure workers of all disciplines are equipped with skills to service the growing range of roles which combine horticultural and landscape construction knowledge with the latest technology. 

It is not currently viable to rely entirely on domestic workers and this is already clear in a number of both horticultural and landscape businesses. The ability to access workers, both seasonally and on a permanent basis, in a flexible manner is critical to the industry thriving and growing. Strategies which address both the development of the domestic market and the availability of seasonal workers will support this aim.

The development of a world-class skilled workforce should be done in unison with an integrated immigration policy so that key individuals can be fast tracked to work in the UK. This would make the UK a top destination for skilled talent and helping the industry grow.

In light of this, we have compiled a list of suggested solutions, industry commitments and projected outcomes.

Solution 1: Government, industry and training providers to collaborate, identify, co-ordinate and share best practice in skills delivery for horticulture and landscaping, by:

  • Supporting an audit of the training provision across the sector to assess gaps against skills needs, and implement subsequent recommended action to ensure there is appropriate, funded skills provision, drive improvements and look for opportunities to further develop training.

Solution 2: Maximise the ornamental horticulture sector’s pool of available labour by:

  • Expanding the current Seasonal Worker Pilot to the ornamental sector or creating a new scheme to better reflect the broader nature of horticulture seasonal labour needs.
  • Recognising the skills shortage of ornamental horticulture and landscaping occupations in the Shortage Occupation List.

Industry commitments:

  • Continuing to engage with the DWP to support domestic seasonal workers to fill the worker gap as much as possible.
  • Using resources, such as those available through Department for Work & Pensions (DWP), to increase the diversity of its workforce.
  • Making horticulture and landscaping a career to be proud of through strategies to improve diversity and inclusion. For example, by increasing access from minority ethnic communities and LGBTQ+.
  • Developing existing careers outreach programmes – with emphasis on the skills needed to support the economic growth of the industry. GoLandscape FT education officer – ambassadors – delivering careers advice working with national careers advisers to educate school pupils, college students, career changers such as through the armed forces resettlement programmes and rehabilitation of offenders.
  • Continuing to provide and contribute to the development of ornamental horticulture and landscaping educational programmes for lifelong learning, including work-based programmes, Continuous Professional Development (CPD), apprenticeships and T-Levels.
  • Engaging in an audit of the training provision across the sector to assess skills gaps, drive improvements, engage on the government’s Skills White Paper and look for opportunities to develop training.
  • Working with the Institute for Agriculture and Horticulture to ensure full alignment of cross-sector expertise and promote ornamental horticulture within that forum.

Outcomes: An extra £7.9 billion in direct GDP contributions per year by 2030:

  • Oxford Economics and Foresight Factory found that the industry will need to employ almost 460,000 people by 2030 to deliver an extra £7.9 billion per year by 2030. Together, government and industry can collectively create thousands of vital new jobs. As well as being a huge economic boost for the UK, it will also boost rural economies and drive new urban jobs in maintaining our vital green spaces. The next generation will benefit from a career path in the new green economy, from land-based jobs to high skill research and development roles in the life sciences.
  • While some automation will replace more manual seasonal picking roles, there are some production areas that do not have automation available meaning that there will still be some reliance on the availability of seasonal labour. This is key and could be the difference between the industry growing or declining. The UK is not alone in this need; in the Netherlands ornamental horticulture sector, approximately a third of the labour input to ornamental horticultural production is seasonal.

The Ornamental Horticulture Roundtable Group (OHRG) are a body of industry representative organisations and the UK’s leading gardening charity, coming together to offer a single voice to champion the value and benefits of the UK’s ornamental horticulture and landscaping sector to government. Chief Executive of the British Association of Landscape Industries Wayne Grills has been on its board since nearly its inception, and has been impressed to see the extensive collaborative work that this industry group has achieved and continues to achieve moving forward on behalf of the wider industry.

Read the OHRG’s landmark report, Growing a Green Economy.

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