Landscaping courses for people with a disability

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.  Following on from the success of its first course, the charity is recruiting for the next one, which starts in Salford near Manchester from Friday 31st January, 2020.

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

These basic horticulture for people with disabilities courses has helped many students. 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:

“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,” says Christopher. 

James, who has a hearing impairment,  heard about the course through his local job centre, and is thankful that the course has got him out and about.

“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,” he explains.

“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.”

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,” says Daniel. “I feel safe here. My favourite thing is planting, but I struggle with the prickly weeds!”

John, who initially had reservations about the course due to the severity of Daniel’s autism adds: 

“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.  It’s boosted Dan’s confidence.”

How to sign up

The next HortAbility course starts on 31st January, every Friday from 9.30am to 3.30pm and will run for 10 weeks.

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 apply, please email or call 0161 820 3835.

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