The Landscaper Magazine

Hort Academy tackles skills gap in market

Hort Academy

A pioneering Hort Academy for landscape and horticultural professionals designed to tackle the widening skills gap in the horticulture industry has been introduced by landscape company Bowles & Wyer. 

The Hort Academy is currently open to those working in the Gardening & Aftercare department at Bowles & Wyer. The plan is to roll it out across the company and with a future industry-wide potential.  It offers a degree of expertise and personal development that will be the first of its kind in the landscape sector. 

Builds a firm foundation in horticulture

The curriculum has been developed by Jeff Stephenson, Head of Horticulture & Aftercare at Bowles & Wyer. It offers training for everyone regardless of their ability and previous experience. For the staff it is designed to foster a deep knowledge of plants and how to nurture and tend them. For the designers and landscape architects within the company the ambition is to build a firm foundation in horticulture that can benefit their design work. 

The Hort Academy has been launched at a time of a growing skills crisis in the horticulture industry. Speaking about the issue, Jeff Stephenson says: “Like many in our industry, we’re fully committed to ensuring gardening, landscaping and horticulture are viewed as credible, professional careers.

“By launching the Hort Academy we’ve placed ourselves firmly at the forefront of this important movement. We hope our Academy will go some way to addressing the deepening skills shortage in the industry and to improving the level of expertise across the sector as a whole” 

Horticultural skills and theory

The ambitious programme covers horticultural skills and theory as well as CPD, attendance at seminars, workshops and trips to nurseries. Training is on-going and will take up a day per month. Online modular training programmes will be available for staff to access at their own pace. The intention is to bring every member of staff up to an equivalent standard and for everyone to have the same knowledge base through both hands-on practice and self-guided learning. For more experienced staff this could mean refreshing knowledge they may have gained at college. For others, this could be a completely new area of study. 

Eduardo Barbato

Eduardo Barbato is one of the team leaders at Bowles & Wyer and was one of the first staff members to join the Hort Academy from Bowles & Wyer. 

Having worked in the industry for 10 years, Eduardo has qualifications in gardening and maintenance from both the RHS and City & Guilds, but he had received little on-the-job training to help him develop his horticultural knowledge before becoming part of the Hort Academy. 

Hort Academy improves skills

With everyday responsibilities for everything from planting to hedge trimming, weeding and topiary, Eduardo says the training offered by Bowles & Wyer has already helped him broaden his knowledge of plants to a far greater level than his previous courses. In addition, he has learnt techniques to help improve a number of skills that are fundamental to his job. 

“The professional knowledge I’ve already gained being part of the Hort Academy is huge. I have a far greater understanding of tasks I have been doing for years. It has given me the opportunity to learn entirely new skills, which benefits me and our clients too,” says Eduardo.

“John Wyer, Chief Executive, Bowles & Wyer said: “We founded the Hort Academy because we are committed to building successful careers for all our staff. We know that when they realise their potential and thrive, our business thrives too. But we have also been careful not to lose the joy of horticulture. 

We want everyone at Bowles & Wyer to share our passion for creating and tending stunning landscapes.”