Horticulture Matters

'Urgent action needed to rescue horticulture' - RHS calls for government action

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The RHS on May 14, 2013 presented a report to the House of Commons calling for government action to urgently address the skills gap in the horticultural industry.

Horticulture-MattersA survey of 200 horticultural businesses conducted by the Society has demonstrated that more than 70% of horticultural businesses cannot fill skilled vacancies, nearly 20% are forced to recruit overseas and almost 70% claim that career entrants are inadequately prepared for work. This gloomy picture is outlined in the report, Horticulture Matters.

The report, commissioned by Britain’s leading horticultural organizations, including the Institute of Horticulture, British Growers Association, HTA (Horticultural Trades Association) and Lantra, concludes that a commitment to bridging the green skills gap is not only necessary but urgent.

The survey of 200 horticultural businesses confirmed an alarming shortage of skilled professionals in UK horticulture. The Horticulture Matters report, which will be presented to Government at the House of Commons, demonstrates exactly how this skills gap is threatening Britain’s economy, environment and food security.

Dwindling numbers of people with horticultural skills simply means that the industry cannot meet the growing demands placed on it. Horticulture contributes £9 billion to the British economy each year as an industry. It employs 300,000 people including crop growers, gardeners, scientists and turf specialists.

The survey also found that 10% of vacancies take at least one year to fill. More than 80% of the survey respondents cited a poor perception of horticulture in schools and colleges as the issue, and 90% said it was because horticulture lacks career appeal.

Sue Biggs, Director General of the RHS, has stated that growing concern across the industry about the skills crisis has galvanized this unified call for Government action. "We’ve brought together Britain’s leading horticultural organizations to create this report.

"We are unanimous in the belief that there must now be urgent action to save British horticulture and it must happen now. Our report calls on the Government, employers and those in the education system to take action to safeguard the critical role that horticulture plays in Britain today.

"Within the report there are solutions that both the horticultural industry and Government could embrace to safeguard the critical role that horticulture plays in Britain today and must continue to play in the future. We must act now to safeguard the critical role horticulture plays in Britain today and must continue to play in the future."

The report asks Government to prioritize horticulture within Research Council and other government research funding areas to equip Britain with the high level of skilled professionals the UK needs to tackle threats posed by pests and diseases and climate change.

The biggest problem does lie with the school system and that of targets for school in that, instead of allowing students their choice of careers, schools and career advisers withing them – led by targets – channel students towards more academic pursuits telling that the must go to university and discourage them to take up a path in the land-based industries.

It goes equally for horticulture as well as for silviculture, that is to say forestry where there is also a dire need for new blood in order for the industry, especially at roots (pardon the pun) level to continue.

Farming equally sufferers from this lack of new blood even though there are young people interested to take it up, in the same way as there are youngsters who want to go into horticulture and forestry. The problem, however, lies, as already indicated, with the schools and primarily with government not recognizing, despite all the great talk, vocational careers in the land-based sector.

The report can be downloaded from: http://www.rhs.org.uk/Media/PDFs/News/1016-RHS-Hort-Careers-Brochure-AW-low-res-spreads

© 2013